Wednesday, October 5
Neon Indian's Alan Palomo may be one of chillwave's founding fathers, but these days, his live show is about>"/>
Neon Indian's Alan Palomo may be one of chillwave's founding fathers, but these days, his live show is about as far from bedroom music as it can possibly get. Palomo's expanded--he plays with a four-piece backing band; last night the stage was crowded with guitars, drums, keyboards, vintage synthesizers, flashing lights--all of which transformed his lo-fi songs into completely new material. "Thank you for coming to enjoy some hopefully very loud music tonight," Palomo said early in the show.
And Palomo doesn't at all fit the stereotype of the shy nerd hiding behind a laptop. The band's current single, "Polish Girl," off the just-released Era Extraña, came early in the set; during the song, Palomo flitted back and forth between a synth and a keyboard but mostly played the role of the conspicuous lead singer, grabbing the microphone stand and jerking it back and forth to the beat of the song. His aggressive energy and movement onstage coupled with the live band made songs like "Hex Girlfriend" and "Future Sick" seem far more like rock songs than anything that could be described as chill.
The band played a good mix of newer songs off Era Extraña, along with some of the best tracks off Palomo's fantastic debut, 2009's Psychic Chasms--"Deadbeat Summer" and a slick, pounding rendition of "Ephemeral Artery" closed the show, followed by an encore of a sped-up, high-pitched version of "Should Have Taken Acid with You."
In his new book Retromania, Simon Reynolds writes about how listening to Boards of Canada transports him back to his youth, his very earliest days growing up in England. Neon Indian does that for me. With all the complexities of the electronics and the programming and the effects, it sounds like music from the future. But something about the songs--maybe the squiggling, toy-like synthesizers, the way Palomo's vocals soothingly melt over the instruments--brings me back to when summer was a vacation, childhood, comfort, Reading Rainbow. . . Last night, even the apocalyptic track "Fallout" had just enough of that twinkling effect to bring on that feeling. It's a Peter Pan magic that makes the songs pop instead of fade into the background.
Palomo may have moved on from the beginning days of just him and his laptop, but last night he took a minute to acknowledge one of his earliest, unwitting influences--Steve Jobs. Before launching into "6669," he told the audience a story about selling his car in high school to buy a laptop, on which he wrote his first songs. "That laptop was definitely a MacBook Pro," he said. "I absolutely would not be here on this stage without that thing."