Thursday night’s Washed Out show at the Bluebird was packed to capacity, with a line that stretched down most of the Colfax block as the band hit the stage. It was impressive, seeing as the last time the band headlined in Denver was at local DIY space Rhinoceropolis just about two years ago.
“Chillwave” is easy to like, though its new-age influenced, sweeping and echoed bubblegum synth-pop often falls flat in live performance, something I worried about for this show. Frontman Ernest Greene and the rest of his touring four-piece proved me wrong, though, by delivering an hour-long set full of influences as old school as Kraftwerk and Talk Talk and ’80s-centric as Gene Loves Gezebel and John Hughes film soundtracks.
The group played most of the material from its latest release, “Within and Without,” and immediately had the entire room swaying and weaving in a heady, teen-romance-movie-happy-ending atmosphere. Playing in front of a set of intensely bright and pulsating LED lights, the band members were more silhouettes than bodies as they swayed behind three banks of keyboards. Unlike the album, the live mix also included a slightly rough, less polished foundation — and really emphasized the bass.
The band wrapped up the set with the blog hit “New Theory,” and kicked the crowd energy up a notch. When the group came back and encored with “Eyes Be Closed,” that atmosphere became euphoric, and Greene and company left on a high note.
Up-and-coming dreampoppers Memoryhouse opened the show with a solid and sweet set of guitar-and-piano pop reminiscent of Beach House, also enjoyed by the crowded house. The highlight of the set came with a creative cover of My Bloody Valentine’s “When You Sleep.” Cleaner and less congested, the Memoryhouse version impressively brought the cult hit to an accessible level — less shoegaze than “tweemo.”
Jason Bach is a Denver photographer and a new contributor to Reverb.