The Irish summer leaves the nation in a position that no “summer music” ever seems realistic to us. We rarely find ourselves driving to the beach with the top down like the Beach Boys. Even a homegrown track like The Undertones ‘Here Comes the Summer’ seems wildly optimistic. So when you’re seeing Washed Out, the project of Ernest Greene that seems to channel the spirit of some perfect endless summer, it’s nice to be indoors pretending it isn’t a lukewarm, overcast Dublin evening.
“Some of our songs are about the end of the world. Some are about just after, when people start to get their shit back together.” As far as song introductions go, surely that’s one of the best. It’s offered by Gareth Averill of Dublin duo Great Lakes Mystery, the first support act for the night. They provide a truly captivating mix of sounds, balancing delicate, analog drones with twinkling synth melodies and ghostly backing vocals. The end result would sit comfortably alongside the work of new drone bands like Emeralds or Oneohtrix Point Never. At times it yields an ominous, almost threatening, mood, at others, a yearning sense of beauty. That said, the vocals do stray in and out of key, and the sparse, disinterested crowd detract a lot from the atmosphere they would otherwise create. Some other night they are sure to amaze.
Dublin/Wicklow electronic act Solar Bears fare better, not solely due to the growing crowd. With forceful beats and drops that set bodies moving, they’ve got all the pulse of a dance act, with the cerebral, creative edge of any experimental act. Choral harmonies, spoken word clips, buzzing low end bass, it all seems to be fair game for their sound. Watching them perform is a delight in itself, as the two appear to revel in assembling their songs in the moment. The combined force of the two support acts shows it’s certainly a lively time for Irish electronic music.
And now it’s time for the headliner to prove that maybe there is life after chillwave. Two years after being revered as one of the movement’s central prophets, Ernest Greene is still going strong; tonight’s show part of a tour promoting his excellent new record Within & Without. He and his band (including his wife Blaire) take to the stage to face the eager, full capacity crowd. The room has heated up enough for them to imagine that it’s a sweltering summer evening. Set up with live drums, a bass guitar and a whole range of synths, computers and samplers (not to mention some fierce tambourine shaking), the whole show has a real sense of being in the moment – like a jam session you’ve been lucky to walk in on.
Given his early work was distinctly bedroom pop, his music takes on new life in performance. ‘New Theory’ now starts with a quiet piano led verse, before becoming a glorious sing-along. The classic ‘Feel it All Around’ reveals itself to be as much a song to groove to as to lie in bed to. But the highlights come from the debut LP Within & Without, all of which seems to have been made with the dancefloor in mind. ‘Echoes’ and the encore of ‘Eyes be Closed’ wash over the crowd with blissful new wave vibes Washed Out should be legendary for. Just before the encore, they launch into a euphoric, extended take of ‘Amor Fati’ that seems to peak and peak with no end. In one of the few bits of onstage talk, Greene says to the crowd “You gotta have fun while you can, right?” with an almost melancholy tone. It’s safe to say that with acts like Washed Out around, it’ll always be a lot easier to do.
Photos by Damien McGlynn in the Full gallery.