Columbia, S.C., native Cameron Gardner texted Kenley last week to tell him that he would be in L.A., playing drums with indie “chillwave” artist Washed Out on Friday at the Echoplex on Sunset Boulevard.
Better yet, Cameron had put us on the guest list for the sold-out show.
Cameron played drums with my husband’s band (Kenley Young and The Open Fires) and with Columbia Free Times music writer Pat Wall’s band (… for Science) before leaving late last year to go on tour with Washed Out in Australia.
When Kenley and I got to the venue in Echo Park, there was a long line of fans hoping to somehow get into the show. After one couple wasn’t able to get in because they were underage, a bidding war erupted for their tickets.
Washed Out recently signed with Sub Pop Records, the famed indie Seattle label that also represents Columbia natives Sam Beam (Iron and Wine) and Ben Bridwell ( Band of Horses). Washed Out’s first full-length album, “Within and Without,” was released this week. The album has been featured on NPR and reviewed by The Washington Post. You can preview the album and buy it on Sub Pop’s website.
Cameron got his start playing drums with The Heist and the Accomplice — before that band’s lead singer, Chaz Bundick, launched his own chillwave project, Toro y Moi.
Kenley jokes that, as a grizzled (old) veteran of Columbia’s music scene, he and his bandmates in Fling always marveled at how the 16-year-olds in The Heist and the Accomplice would sell out shows wherever they played in town.
Ernest Greene, the artist behind Washed Out, graduated from the University of South Carolina, where he met Chaz. Washed Out and Toro y Moi each went on to popularize a new type of music called chillwave. (Read Pat Wall’s interview with Greene in the Columbia Free Times.)
Got all that?
The point is, there are lots of Columbia connections, and Kenley and I were excited to support Cameron and Washed Out in our new hometown of Los Angeles.
In the “it’s a small world” category, the bartender at the Echoplex was also from Columbia.
For the non-initiated, chillwave is heavily synthesized groove music with interestingly minimal vocals layered over a pop rhythm. It makes you want to dance, but doesn’t overwhelm you with a heavy electronic dance beat. (If you’re a hipster, you might enjoy listening to it while smoking illegal substances or, just as easily, while dancing in a dark club. Or, in the case of the guy in front of us, both at the same time. He got thrown out.) Here’s how The Wall Street Journal describes the chillwave trend.
I’m admittedly too old to have ever been considered a hipster, but Washed Out was fun and far more accessible than I expected. There are some ’80s influences in the pop synth sound. And on stage, Ernest is at once laid-back and energetic, at once boyishly charming with a hint of sexiness. My favorite song, and one of the most well-known, was “Feel It All Around,” a track from an earlier EP. The live version features a saxophone player.
Washed Out had played at New Brookland Tavern in Columbia and The Earl in Atlanta (yes, the venue that my brother, Patrick, books) before coming to California. They were playing in San Francisco and New York before going on a European tour. They’ll be back in the states in September.
After the show at the Echoplex, the drummer for the opening band (The Chain Gang of 1974) said that when emo kids grow up, they become hipsters. I asked him what happens after that. He said you’re just a regular person. He seemed satisfied with that.
I didn’t have the heart to tell him I was actually born in 1974. But hey … I turned out fine.