Washed Out at The Imperial
I like to think of myself as a veteran concertgoer in Vancouver. I've been to most of the major venues around town; the Commodore, Orpheum, Vogue, even Venue when that was a go-to place for mid-level acts. Hell, I've spent significant time in most of the dive-ier venues in this city, many of which don't even exist anymore.
However, despite my self-importance (or maybe because of it), I had never been to The Imperial.
Nestled deep in Vancouver's Downtown East Side, The Imperial is the prime spot for hip, out-of-towners, bordering on the cusp of Pitchfork-approved, alt-culture stardom, or former hype bands, steadily carving out a career for a dedicated fandom. On May 13, my first experience at this spacious sanctuary of subcultural convergance was for the latter, specifically chill-wave loyalists, Washed Out.
Regretably, I missed the openers Yoshi Flower, barely making it for Washed Out's opening number. From there, the band fronted by Earnest Weatherly Greene Jr., played songs from 2017's Mister Mellow and 2013's Paracosm, while also teasing new material, including the most recent single "Face Up". The Imperial accommodated the vibrant and dynamic visuals for the band's music, oscillating between gritty, filtered imaging of urban landscapes and brightly coloured, trip-inducing psychedalia. Remarkably, the smooth, soft-pulse of Washed Out's brand of ethereal dance-pop paired perfectly with the imagery, adding another layer to an excellent performance.
Though the band played a fantastic set on the strength of their later material, they didn't shy away from their back catalogue that established them as must-see act. They confidentally played the best songs off of 2011's Within and Without, including opening track "Eyes Be Closed" and personal favourite "Soft", as well as arguably their most recognizable track, "Feel It All Around", from 2009's EP Life of Leisure, better known as the Portlandia theme song.
Washed Out was the perfect way for me to experience this venue. My love affair with their early work made the space warm and welcoming, illuminating it with familiarity. It's worth noting when an artist can dictate the longterm feeling of an environment, long after they've played.
If music venues like the Imperial serve as a guest houses for visiting performers, Washed Out couldn't have had a tenant.