In Return: Welcome Home Odesza
For Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight, it would be easy to say that they had made it when they were picked up by Pretty Lights‘ management team. Or by the 60+ weeks In Return has spent on the Billboard charts. Or the over year and a half they’ve spent selling out tours, including four shows over three days back home in Seattle, all of which went almost instantly. And the list goes on and on and on.
But the real takeaway is what was happening outside of their homecoming shows the first weekend in December. As with almost any high profile concert or sporting event, the sidewalk just outside of the venue is populated by an assortment of business professionals who “need tickets.” Almost coincidentally, there are other people about ten feet away who happen to be selling tickets. I wonder if they actually all know each other and work together…
Keep in mind, this isn’t just people trying to flip easy tickets online through Craigslist or Facebook. These are some professional scalpers that you start seeing everywhere; outside of every sold out show, outside of every Seahawks game, trading tickets and trying to make a dishonest dollar. When admission to your show is being sold at six to ten times the original cost, that’s when you know you’ve become part of something big.
And you can be assured Seattle came out in droves to welcome them home. As word spread of their performance after each night, tickets became scarcer, or at least more expensive. Like Death Cab before them and Macklemore in more recent years, it seems like almost everyone has an Odesza story. Anything from how you were one of the first hundred people to hear their Beat Connection remix or how you used to play laser tag with Clayton when you guys were younger or how you were at the very front at that first Wild Buffalo show three years ago or how you watched a probably drunk Harrison pulling packages of Starbursts out of his backpack and handing them to strangers as they walked by. All of those are things people have told me, despite whether or not any of them are true.
I feel like most people actually heard about Odesza around the same time I did about a year ago, when I lied about listening to their music so I could impress a girl that I liked.
Something I constantly bring up when talking about live music is the idea of a crafted environment. It’s not just the music, but the venue, lights, special effects, vibe, crowd, all go into creating the experience that is ultimately what your ticket price goes to. And Odesza seems to have formed solely to perform in venues like the Paramount. High ceilings and gorgeous architecture were consumed by dreamy purple and blue lights floating through a steady stream produced by a potentially excessive fog machine budget. The ambiance was flawlessly set for soothing favorites like “Sun Models,” “All We Need,” “My Friends Never Die,” and radio hit “Say My Name.”
But this night had something else going for them as well. While I don’t doubt that every show on Odesza’s tour has been incredible, those of us who were able to attend in Seattle were treated to something a little different. From people that I hadn’t seen since high school, people that I see constantly, and people that I didn’t even know at all; everyone greeted and interacted with each other with the same energy; an energy that screams this was something that we as a community all have ownership in.
And this really makes how and when exactly you discovered Odesza kind of irrelevant. The sentiment is real and the excitement for their music is impossible to ignore. How eager and thrilled we are to be a part of something. We want to feel this connection to something we almost feel responsible for, if only by association. We can hear our city in the music. From the stormy, borderline depressive winters to the unbeatable vibrant summers (something that Odesza has cited as a huge source of inspiration), everything just seems to fit into place.
I say to hell with the Seattle freeze. This is a shining example of the community and the passion and love that people have for this region. There’s a reason people in Seattle stay here and there’s a reason people like Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight and Ben Gibbard and Ben Haggerty write music about this place and can recreate a deep and intimate familiarity that would impossible to recreate anywhere else. Although if anyone could make everywhere feel like home, it would be Odesza.
We left the Paramount just a little early in the hopes of beating the rush, but even with our small head start to the after party at Q Nightclub, it was already easily the most crowded I’ve ever seen the 1000 person capacity venue. It was humid, the coat check line was insane, everyone was drunk on arrival and greeting each other with an energy that implied they hadn’t seen each other in years. The whole experience felt like a high school reunion. Like me, most people probably came expecting something even more downtempo than the dreamy experience we all just had at the Paramount; something much more like their no.sleep mixtapes. Background music, three AM music, my “Microsoft Excel and chill” playlist at work.
After Manatee Commune reunited us with the chill and welcoming vibes we’ve come to expect, Odesza took the stage and completely flipped our expectations. From hip hop to disco, from trap to some of the grimiest bass in recent memory, the vibe was a complete 180 from their live performance less than an hour ago. I doubt they get the opportunity to play like that very often, and they certainly seemed to be having the time of their lives. It was crowded, hot, beyond chaotic, and I actually mean this as a compliment for once…totally ratchet. And it all worked. You want to talk about a crafted environment; every crowded, sweaty, head-rattling, thwomp-inspiring element played it’s part in shaking Q Nightclub to it’s core.
It seems like it’s not enough to just spin records anymore. Incorporating live instruments into DJ sets is becoming more and more commonplace, and artists are constantly finding ways to make the shows they put on something unique to be a part of. And while Odesza may not have been the first to do so, they have certainly had a hand in popularizing it. Harrison and Clayton were making this music while that first big surge of people were starting to go to festivals and the lineups consisted mostly of what would eventually become big room house and some traces of the last big wave of dubstep. Even early on, they were finely aware of how electronic music doesn’t need to just be something that only an isolated, misunderstood subculture listens to. Odesza is mainstream in the best way possible, producing creative and thought-provoking music that can be accessed and related to by anyone.
We are only three years into Odesza’s career and at the beginning of what seems to be a new direction that dance music is taking. In a culture and sound that has already taken over the airwaves, we are being gifted with something that makes it far more inclusive. These are the moments that transform something from simply a trend to something much more.
Whoever that guy was that introduced Harrison and Clayton to each other…we fucking owe you the world.
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