Last Night: Neon Indian At Groundhall
Photos by Jim Bricker
Neon Indian Groundhall October 6, 2010
For more images from Wednesday's show, see our slideshow here.
In-the-know scenesters amassed Wednesday night as Texas' indie darling Alan Palomo performed to a half-full Groundhall, although many local vets still refer to the warehouse-like downtown venue as the Engine Room.
Better known under his most recent recording moniker, Neon Indian, the Mexico-born and Texas-bred Palomo has made a name for himself around some of the nation's hippest cities as of late - originating in Denton, sprouting in Austin and most recently tacking on Brooklyn to his musical "roots." Palomo and his Neon Indian mates came to Groundhall fresh off this year's festival circuit, drawing favorable responses at Pitchfork and Bonnaroo.
Palomo's praise seems deserved; the fresh-faced musician has crafted a lo-fi sound, heavily doused in infectious '80s electro-pop. The 22-year-old singer-songwriter/synth-master and his live lineup of drummer Jason Faries, synth/keys player Leanne Macomber and guitarist Ronnie Gierhart took the stage early, early Thursday morning - 12:30am - beside a projection of colorful, tapestry-like footage, the warm gold hues reflecting off their youthful faces.
Neon Indian's 2009 debut, Psychic Chasms, revealed a tempered electronic sound most commonly referred to as "chillwave"; however, Wednesday's show instantaneously proved the touring quartet's live sound was capable of even more.
Palomo held his own as front man, dutifully splitting his center-stage time between manning the mike and synths - not to mention the Theremin. Apparently Wayne Coyne is no longer one of the sole musicians in rock and roll to masterfully incorporate the rare instrument.
He led the band through entrancing numbers like the chill "Mind, Drips" and upbeat indie anthem "Deadbeat Summer," which aroused an energetic response from the crowd - many of whom, as Aftermath sized it up - appeared to be defying their bedtimes.
Reverbed synths and hard-hitting drumbeats launched Neon Indian's live set into another realm, surpassing any confines of their lo-fi recording. Indisputably, rebel guitarist Gierhart is the live group's secret weapon, his surprisingly gritty solos offering a refreshing spin on Palomo's electro beats.
In what would be one of Palomo's few remarks to the crowd, the otherwise seasoned Texan acknowledged it was his first time playing to a Houston audience. After receiving subsequent cheers of approval, the band continued its stream of breezy electro tunes, including a blithe "Sleep Paralysist," before thanking the crowd and heading offstage.
Within a few minutes, to no one's surprise but to the satisfaction of many, most of the band - boys only this time around - trotted back out for a spirited encore including "No Reasons," a cover of Palomo's earlier musical self, VEGA.
Nowadays, it seems that artists' hometowns become hazy with more frequency. Neon Indian now claims "Austin/Brooklyn" roots and sure Brooklyn's music scene has its tempting characteristics: Slick leather jackets, tapered jeans and a grand attitude to boot. It's easy to see how those things could reel in indie darlings quickly.
Nevertheless, Texas also has every right to claim Neon Indian for itself.
Personal Bias: Improving upon what Aftermath already considers a quality record with an energetic live show is all right by us.
The Crowd: Dominated by groovin' couples and early-twentysomething males eager for sweater weather.
Overheard In the Crowd: Who was eavesdropping on the crowd when there were scantily clad girls dancing on the picnic tables?
Random Notebook Dump: "The last time I heard synth-pop this hooky was in a John Hughes flick."