photo by Logan Fazio
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
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.
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.
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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
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headed for the top ten charts) producers that they unwittingly spawned
in the decade that followed?
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.
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.
crusade against the trappings of commercialism in electronic dance
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.
Hope Records on October 6.