Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Washed Out at The Empty Bottle - 4/5/10

Walking into The Empty Bottle for the first time is an experience that should illicit a smile, as it dawns on you that this is almost an exact replica of the tiny, grimy bar that you would frequent every so often in college, and while that doesn't make it a great place to grab a drink, it sure makes it one hell of a nice place to watch live music. $1.50 PBR flowed like milk at an FFA convention and even with your back up to the bar, the intimate setting puts the viewer right in the midst of the action. You couldn't get away from the music if you wanted to.

And with Washed Out playing, who in their right mind would want to?

Ernest Greene (Washed Out) opened his set with some body shakers, and while the bulk of it was unreleased material, the songs were crowd pleasers as the bass felt as if it wanted to break free from the speakers and beat itself into the ground. This was a very good thing. Heavy bass, mixing with a thick layer of haze over the vocals made listening to actual lyrics impossible, but created a vibe that would carry over for the rest of the show. Greene’s unbridled energy for his music infected the crowd and grew as the show progressed. After the mood was established, Greene exited, saying he would be back to play the rest of his set with Small Black (who was actually headlining the show) as the backing band.

Small Black was an impressive mix of bass, drums and enthusiasm. The keyboardist and main vocalist shared the singing duties, with the lead vocalist twisting some knobs every so often. The music was more electronic than I had imagined, hearing only a couple of songs prior to the show, but it was an entertaining if not original sound and I was grooving along with the rest of the crowd. It did, however, leave me longing for Washed Out to come back on stage. The early Washed Out set was good, but it wasn't what I came to see. Once Greene took the stage with Small Black a new energy filled the small, dark room as the familiar sounds of the Life of Leisure EP came to life.

Straight out of the gate, one could tell the disarming "Hold Out" was going to be different than the preceding songs. The menacing bass line was heard (and felt) loud and clear. There was also a noticeable change in the way the crowd was reacting to the music, as if caught in a trance, while earlier it was just one big party. Small Black had a lot to do with this, as the bell-ringing guitar echoing throughout "Hold Out" is essential to the song’s attraction. While the euphoria that shot straight to my brain upon hearing the opening to the next track, “You’ll See It,” was sustained throughout the song, it seemed clear to me that “Hold Out” was the highlight of the show.

The most well received song was unsurprisingly Washed Out's most popular, "Feel It All Around," and it did not disappoint. As the opening salvo of bass vibrated up and down my spine, the crowd let out a roar of approval that dissolved into a sustained groove, captivated by the pure, chill essence of the song. The departure from dance-inducing bass to a stoning sense of calm was a chance to relax and soak in the surroundings. As the set drew to a close, Greene joined in on an exuberant version of Small Black's "Despicable Dogs," which he had remixed last year for a split EP (get the remix here, thank me later).

Overall the show more than met any expectations I had going into it. The venue was perfect, the bass and overall sound was cranked way up, and the bands seemed to have endless supplies of energy. The set arrangement was interesting but worked surprisingly well, how can you pass up a delicious double dosage of Washed Out? I couldn't help but feel some of the members of Small Black weren't thrilled to have their set cut short, but the way they played did not reflect this. Without Small Black, this concert would not have been nearly as good. As the two bands combined the show turned from guys turning knobs and cranking bass into a full-fledged crowd pleasing force, with both Small Black and Washed Out proving they are bands to take notice of.

No comments:

Post a Comment