It was “80s revival night” at the Great American Music Hall on Saturday, July 9th. Every band brought their own style of tribute to a time of bad clothing, synth music, and cocaine. Okay there wasn’t any cocaine that I know of but damn anyone who didn’t feel as though the lead singer of Chain Gang of 1974 snorted a line before his set. Anyway, it was a surprising night for the most part. For an act I’ve always associated as a run-of-the-mill chill-out act that didn’t have much room to expand, came out with a fairly enjoyable set of songs that anyone with a will to dance could love.
Opening was a the eclectic and super enthusiastic The Chain Gang of 1974. Besides having a more modern version of New Order-style 80s rock, the lead singer’s maniac energy was the real star of the show. After jumping into a sea of unimpressed faces, the band seemed to gradually (however slowly) win the crowd over. In fact the band never once acted as if they were an opening act. If anything they played as if they were featuring or as though everyone was there to see them. While this made their set enjoyable, if not a little delusional on their part, it did make me want to hear their recorded material. It wasn’t even the kind of music I’m into, I just wanted to know if their stage energy could be translated well on record. Turns out it can [listen below].
Next up was the sexy and slightly cliche Class Actress (oh I see what you did there…). Why sexy? Well the lead singer wore an over-sized, button down, white dress shirt you’d see on a chick who just slept over some guy’s place and didn’t have a change of clothes. She danced to the synth-pop style music very provocatively and was clearly enjoying herself on stage. This energy was projected back from the audience, who was eating it up. Every once in a while I’d hear a slightly drunk gay gentlemen behind me yell, “Oh my God I love her!”
Why cliche? Seriously, how many more acts do we need like this? Hot chick with influences of Blonde with a synth player that draws influence from Depeche Mode, Erasure, and Human League and [insert 80s band reference]. You get the idea. But like I said, the crowd was going nuts for Class Actress and with a new album on the horizon and a decent EP from 2009 under her belt, it looks like they might be getting more attention.
Finally was the much hyped Washed Out. While the Life of Leisure EP had gotten much airplay by the chillwave-lover community (myself included), I’m not sure what everyone expected as far as live performance goes. Was it going to be a keyboard and laptop show? Was he just going to stand there sans band and press buttons? Luckily my expectations were completely smashed and thrown at my dumb face because what did occur was an impressive mix of 80s throwback dance music mixed with a modern love of true mature electronic music.
Washed Out mastermind Ernest Greene was joined by a full band of keyboard players, drummer, guitar, and bass as they assisted him in bringing home his recently released new album, Within or Without. As the guy who co-produced Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavillion, Gnarls Barkley’s St. Elsewhere and Deerhunter’s Halcyon Digest, you’d expect someone who knows how to understand modern pop and portray that with same kind of passion he’s put into said albums. That’s exactly what happens on stage. With songs like Amor Fati and Eyes Be Closed, Greene paid tribute not only to 80s ideology but also to the sexiness surrounded by the best of the trip-hop genre. The music is fun and sensual while not too cheesy (it’s still a little cheesy). Even the older songs took on new life as the full band added character and layers to a presumably bedroom laptop kind of music. Particularly the much loved Feel It All Around, which received a nice saxophone addition, much to the crowd’s delight.
It was a predictably short set, considering Greene only has one EP and a 9-song LP out. They did however play one new track that I failed to get the name of or where it’s going to appear if recorded (Adult Swim Singles?). With Greene dropping the reverb-heavy vocals and bringing in the full scale supporting band, Washed Out is more of a dance party live than a chillout session surrounding a hookah.
It was nice to see the band be able to reach past buzz band status and emerge as true live performer. We’ll be seeing more of him in the future if they keep this up.