Concert Review: Way Out West at Shine, September 19

wayoutwestlive.jpg
photo by Logan Fazio

To view a full slideshow of photos from the event, click here

Way Out West 
Saturday, September 19 
Shine at the Shelborne

South Beach 


Better Than: Watching their live footage on YouTube. 

The Review:

For better or worse, this is less of a proper concert review than my

own reflections on the cultural/commercial legacy of Way Out West,

after seeing them play. The masses gathered in predictably large

numbers for the duo's live performance at Shine last Saturday night,

but given the geographic location (SoBe) and the venue's gratuitous

general admission before midnight, I'd be willing to bet that the

favorable turnout had less to do with the actual booking than the

magnetic pull of an upscale Collins nightclub opening its doors to the

plebs. 


I find it hard to believe that so many Gen Y'ers even know who

Way Out West is, because with all due respect to the duo, they are

pretty much a relic of the '90s. This is not to say that their legacy

hasn't lived on, nor that the duo's individual members, Nick Warren

and Jody Wisternoff, haven't enjoyed illustrious solo careers, because

they have -- especially Warren, whose name still garners recognition

into the late 2000s for his Global Underground compilation mixes. 


I'm the last person to judge an artist on the basis of their

mainstream relevance or popularity, being the underground music

fetishist that I am. But that's precisely the problem I want to

address, because Way Out West are as mainstream as it comes. Among

other pop accolades, their track "Don't Forget Me" was featured in

season two of Grey's Anatomy, "Melt" had an appearance in The O.C.,

and an excerpt of "The Gift" is used for the title theme on the MTV

show True Life


But to their credit, they did in fact help pioneer

that flamboyant big-room vocal prog house sound that has come to

embody the dance mainstream, and when they were pioneering it in the

'90s, it presumably didn't sound like the dismal washed-out commercial

dirge infecting the airwaves today, but rather like something fresh

and relevant to that time.

So how do you reconcile the past glory of a '90s progressive house

titan like Way Out West, genuinely original in their own time, and in

their own right, with the countless untalented and insipid (albeit

Upcoming Events

headed for the top ten charts) producers that they unwittingly spawned

in the decade that followed? 


Saturday night was a good chance to find

out, given the opening set by DJ Jon Cowan, a procession of all that

is predictable, banal and derivative about contemporary dance music.

Just to give you an idea, the highlight of his set was a trancey remix

of "Gypsy Woman" by Crystal Waters. That pretty much says it all. No

offense to Mr. Cowan, I hate to be a hater, I really do, but I have my

own standards and tastes, plus this is just one person's opinion. For

whatever it's worth, his delivery was in fine form, and his audience

was lapping it up. Being in South Beach, I was the fish out of water. 


Way Out West got behind the decks around 2 a.m. and cruised through a

repertoire of their classic hits and new material from their upcoming

new album, We Love Machine. The publicized "live performance", which

could have presumably included a live vocalist and possibly live

instrumentation, given the sophistication of their studio productions,

ended up being only the by now ubiquitous variety of

laptop-and-MIDI-controlled live PAs that so many contemporary

producers have taken up in lieu of turntables. A set full of all the

expected swooning vocals, intricate melodic buildups and epic

breakdowns of your standard progressive house with a nod to the

emotive greatness that this genre once was. 


Critic's Notebook 

Personal Bias: anyone who reads my blogs regularly knows that I'm on a

crusade against the trappings of commercialism in electronic dance

music. 


Random Detail: Not so random, considering it marred the experience of

the show itself, but Shine's sound system could use a revamp. All you

could hear on Saturday night was loud rattly bass overwhelming

everything else. Not ideal for the melodic sounds of Way Out West

which make ample use of the higher frequencies. 


By the Way: Way Out West's new album, We Love Machine, is due out on

Hope Records on October 6.


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