Neon Indian: Live at the Majestic
Alex de Young, Clarion staff
May 8, 2012
Filed under Arts & Culture
Neon Indian, a band composed of front-man Alan Palomo, Jason Faries on drums, Leanne Macomber on keyboard and backing vocals, Joshua Mcwhirter on guitar, and Lars Larsen on live visuals and on-board effects. Together they create funky and downbeat tracks that always sound quite warm and fuzzy. Their sound is hard to describe but ranges somewhere between psychedelic pop, chillwave or simply indie electronica. They have released two records: “Psychic Chasms,” (2009) and “Era Extrana” (2011) to much critical acclaim by the likes of Spin, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone and Internet bloggers worldwide.
The band came on stage shortly before 11 p.m., and they brought the jams to Madison. There is a very odd monolith looking centerpiece, which lights up and has a something like a hexagon disco ball for a head that emulates smoke. The large screened visualizer turns on, and the Majestic slowly turns into a fuzzy psychedelic paradise full of young college kids, strange people in sports jerseys and hipsters in every sense. The band opens with a strange, somewhat freeform ambient piece of glitches and bleeps. This continues for about ten minutes until Palomo breaks the odd silence and tells the audience of a recent circuit blow. Luckily for everybody it was a quick fix and the band launches into “Polish Girl,” also the opener on their latest long-play record.
The true analog synthesized sounds come through clear, even with the use of a live drummer. The real difference between their mastered recordings vs. their live performance is that a drum machine was used for most of the recorded tracks on their debut album and around half on their recent. The drum machine makes the tracks seem more downbeat and funky, while the live drums make the band sound more punkish, or even rock. The band then turned things into a very deaf defying piece that I could not stop bobbing my head to. The short piece seemed improvised, and it was basically Neon Indian mixed with a dubstep melody, and a hip-hop drum rhythm.
The band then played “Hex Girlfriend,” “Fallout” and “Suns Irrupt” All are tracks off their new album. Deeper emotions are conveyed in these tracks and it would seem like Palomo is trying to break away from the whole ‘chill-wave’ classification and be taking more seriously as an artist.
The latest record is much tighter and cleaner, while the emotions seem more real and sincere. The songs moody melodies filled up the Majestic with a sense of self-reflecting nostalgia. Palomo, when not on they keys usually danced in his own personal space while singing with a sense of leadership.
After a healthy serving of “Era Extrana” tracks the band plays “Deadbeat Summer” an instant-future classic that will be remarked as (good or bad) a chill-wave classic. Around halfway through the set, the band flew into “Ephemeral Artery” easily the heaviest track in their bag, but also so moody. The track lights up the venue and everybody is jumping at this point. The show surprisingly was not sold out, but packed none-the-less. Their psychedelic and club induced sounds kept the crowd dancing and moving with the beat.
Between most of the tracks there would often be an ambient breakdown of effects, odd novelty and retro samples. This was mainly due to the constant tweaking of the presents on the musicians keyboards. These ambient pieces are unlike anything on the albums and that is something to look forward to on the next long-play.
With only a few tracks left Macomber left her spot at the keys and picked up the Roland G-77 bass controller that had been played by McWhirter. Leanne then seems shy and uncertain of her music capability, but plays the next tune “Halogen (I Could Be A Shadow)” flawlessly. Other notable instruments used during the set were a Roland Juno-60, something what looked like a Moog Modular, and a Prophet. This time however, Palomo left his Thermin in Brooklyn.
Overall, the band always seems to turn it up a couple notches when playing live, giving them more of a kick to get people moving. The sounds get larger and fuzzier.
The band then concluded after “Mind, Drips,” and quickly vanished. Some people left and I truly believed the show was over, but the lights didn’t come on. The show lasted a little over an hour and ultimately felt a bit short. However, within a few minutes the band returned and played their biggest known hit yet: “Terminally Chill,” an uppity, good feeling track with lush synth pads and such dreamy ambience. It’s the perfect “so long” track and I’m quite sure the people of Madison will see Neon Indian once again.