Modern DJs have a certain style when they perform live. DJs like Skrillex, Bassnectar, and deadmau5 conduct a show with tons of enormous bright lights, a speaker set that could literally knock walls down, gigantic props and usually a wall of screens behind them. This seems to be the standard style of live show that fans of the EDM/Dubstep/Techno/Electronic genre are used to but, right beneath the surface of that over-the-top, lose-your-mind experience, there exists a more nuanced, intimate one to be found. That kind of show is found in a densely packed room at the Underground, shoulder to shoulder with one another watching Washed Out on tour for the first time in two years.
After taking the past few years to write and play several festival sets here and there, Washed Out is back on tour and he’s not alone. Most of the crowd had no idea there was an opener, much less who it was. Nobody was disappointed by DEGA, a two-piece electronic act perfect for this kind of tour. The mood was set by two projectors behind each of the performers that emitted a soft light which casted long, dark shadows leaving the onlookers nothing but silhouettes to observe. Their harmonies blended seamlessly and layered over the relaxed electronic beat and bass groove without flaw. It seems that DEGA is still pretty underground for now, but you can definitely expect big things from that duo, especially after their performance on this tour.
Minutes went by and the tension built as stagehands set up new light rigs, a full acoustic drum kit, and multiple keyboards during the changeover. Again, not what one would expect to see from a live DJ/electronic-artist set. The stage setup seemed to take after that of James Blake at first, but the band had more to offer. Even more people had packed into the room during the exchange and excited conversations overtook the soundscape. The conversation changed to wild cheering as the house lights died down and a small projector from the back of the room burst into life Washed Out took the stage with his backing band as the projector screen began to run through the set loop of visuals that would play throughout the show. The images ranged from solid colors to intricate patterns, frequently interrupted by trippy mashups inspired by the cover of his new record, Mister Mellow.
The band played through most of the new record with several short interludes in between, as well as a few songs from previous material, most notably “Feel It All Around” the hit single from the Life of Leisure EP best known as the intro theme to Portlandia. The songs featured an excellent handle on genre, spreading between the expected “chill-wave” material and extending into hip-hop with a grasp on funk and jazz. Those who have perhaps seen Washed Out in a festival setting probably have a different perception of his live performances but, in this venue, his set was intimate, engaging, and a sensory wonder beyond what any DJ can accomplish with one projector screen. It may be his first tour in two years, but Washed Out hasn’t missed a beat. He’s back and better than ever before.
Check out the remaining 2017 tour dates for Washed Out.