Homeshake, the solo musical project by Peter Sagar, made its second performance in Washington, D.C., at the Black Cat on Sunday, March 24. Although Homeshake has lacked the support of critical validation recently, the negative responses have hardly shifted the fervor of his listeners, who continue to be drawn to his unchanging, synth sound for easy listening.
This performance follows last year’s show at U Street, and the release of his widely panned third album titled “Helium.” The album received a 3.5 rating by Pitchfork and was described by critics as consisting largely of “tepid synths and limp beats.”
The show began abruptly with opener Yves Jarvis, who played a forgettable and seemingly never-ending set. The youthful crowd quickly diverted their attention to their phones to avoid listening to the indie singer, previously known as Un Blonde, whose latest album “The Same But By Different Means” was released in early March. Even the Frank Ocean song that played over the speakers in between sets garnered a warmer reception from the audience.
Finally, the former Mac DeMarco guitarist clambered on stage alongside his live band, opening with the track “Early” off “Helium,” to the crowd’s delight. The bare, makeshift stage set an organic, mellow mood, further proof that Homeshake’s fans did not need much to feel immersed in the show except for Sagar’s music.
The sheer bare-bones nature of the venue and stage complimented the minimalist but dreamlike tone of both Homeshake’s show and album, unlike his previous guitar-heavy works such as “In The Shower” and “Fresh Air.”
Sagar claims that “Helium” was inspired by his binge-reading spree of Haruki Murakami’s works, a prolific Japanese author, which is reflected in the surrealism of his lyrics. Yet Homeshake’s lyrics seem to be just a small fraction of his appeal. The calming effect of virtually every song he puts out, rather, manages to ensnare the audience to chase his performance on a weed-induced high. Each track, nearly identical to the next, are all hazy and dazed.
Homeshake characterizes himself as a lo-fi band, meaning that he cultivates a lower quality, less produced sound. Despite the overwhelming rise of lo-fi artists with the same homogenous ambient sound, Homeshake still manages to amass and maintain a following. A listener may not be able to distinguish Homeshake from any other obscure artists of the genre on a “Chill Beats For Studying” playlist on Spotify, except that Homeshake has racked up millions of listens over the years. Yet the 20 million plays he has accumulated on his most popular song “Give It To Me” from his 2015 album “Midnight Snack” suggests the band offers something distinct as the visible forefront of his lo-fi-esque genre.
Although there exists the perception that the avant-garde music Homeshake claims to produce is not particularly groundbreaking, this farce does not mean he is an unsatisfying performer. In fact, the audience members found themselves thoroughly entertained. Even less familiar fans of his music seemed taken by his musical ability and onstage jokes alone. The Montreal native donned a red cowboy hat for the entirety of the show, but that did not ever distract the crowd from his falsetto.
The crowd never faltered over a word during his set, which consisted of hits such as “Every Single Thing,” “Khmlwugh” and “Call Me Up”. They even oohed at appropriate moments, from Sagar’s comments on his engagement to an impressive electric guitar solo.
Listeners cannot deny that his easy-listening music and the genre in general gets a reputation of background music to play while something minimally more important or exciting occurs, like taking a shower or working on math homework. This reputation, though, does not mean that Homeshake is not worth listening to live in concert.
After his encore of “(Secret Track),” Sagar grabbed the microphone and said in deadpan, “This is the end of the show.” In a way, the conclusion to his second concert in D.C. mirrors his approach to music thus far. Homeshake does not try to be anything more than it is, and Sagar lays out to his listeners and critics alike unabashedly that this product is the limits of what kind of sound he wants to make.