Nick Murphy went by the name “Chet Faker” until last year when he decided to pursue his solo effort under his own name. This was merely cosmetic, as the music Nick has produced in the past year under his new (actual) name has transitioned over pretty smoothly from the intimate electronics of earlier work to the expansive, more guitar-oriented sounds that still retain the intimacy and penchant for chill.

You would assume those vibes would hold up in a live setting, especially when your opener is Washed Out, who effectively cemented the term “chillwave” in the early 2010’s. But what I witnessed on Thursday night at the lovely Shrine Expo Hall was a full-on illuminative rock show, an eye-brow raising live music moment that everyone seemed to be on board with.

Photos by David Fisch

Ernest Greene’s Washed Out opened the night supporting their new album Mister Mellow and sported appropriately trippy visuals in the background. Anyone who’s been tuned into indie culture for nearly the past decade or even five years would know the track “Feel It All Around,” which they most certainly played, and everyone got down with it.

The rest of their rather short set, however, seemed unfamiliar to most, and without any real rousing performance or interesting stage cues, it came off as background to everyone’s conversations – something to just “have on” before the headliner. Though sometimes visually imposing and unquestionably playing their nice studio recordings to the audience, it was a snoozy set, which might have been the point, because it certainly didn’t prepare us for a headlining set that woke us up.

The stage crew slowly revealed a much deeper stage than I was expecting, with a drum set on each side, a piano towards the back, and a couple keyboards and guitars up front. When Nick Murphy finally emerged, lights surrounded him and his face was laser-focused on whatever was in front of him. He would often mouth something to himself or physically acted out his moves before performing them, oftentimes with an unexpected charisma or shake that you would think he knew he was performing to an audience and not to a mirror in his room.

That kind of unleashed live physicality brought an interesting dynamic to his music, which in its studio-recorded variation is certainly dancey, but in the way IDM music is – personal, reflective, inward. This instead was extroverted, a man with his set of skills as a multi-instrumentalist unleashing vibrant jams and a coordinated light show out from the stage, rocking out to his instruments and bobbing with his mic all around the stage to the point that it would catch on his mic and keyboard stands. He matched the energy by effectively kicking over said stands and knocking over his instruments.

He did play new tracks from his EP Missing Link as his new moniker, but he made sure to also play many tracks from his time as Chet Faker, including “Talk Is Cheap,” “Gold,” and “1998.” He even closed the set performing a new piano-oriented song which may or may not find its way on a recording in the future.

For a night that was expected to be pretty chill, it was not, and maybe that’s okay. Nick Murphy surprised with a set of rockstar mentality that may have impressively brought the house down, making this night at the Shrine one of the more weirdly interesting concert experiences in recent memory.

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Nick Murphy
Washed Out