Words and photos by AJ Miranda.
The poster should’ve read “Neon Indian, plus two horrible opening bands.” That’s exactly what the near-capacity Emo’s crowd got on Monday night. To the headliner’s credit, Neon Indian put on a fantastic show. Unlike the lifeless, so-chill-it-put-us-to-sleep performance of Toro Y Moi on the same stage last month, Alan Palomo and crew’s version of chillwave or glo-fi or GorillaVsBearcore was infinitely more engaging, memorable and entertaining than anything else we’ve seen from the sketchy genre.
But more on Neon Indian in a minute. First, the openers: Cry Blood Apache and Survive. Two minutes in, I could see why those Apaches are crying blood. The white man desecrated their lands and forced them onto reservations only to use their land for playing uninspired, boring no-wave tripe bereft of energy and musicality. It’s not a good sign when there are three members on stage and the loudest aspect of the show is the uninspired preprogrammed drum machine beat. You couldn’t hear the bass at all. The guitarist looked like a madman as he took a drill gun (sans bit) to his guitar for what I’m sure was supposed to be some mindblowing psychedelia, except the guitar was so low in the mix that all you could hear were faint screeches drowned out by reverby vocal diarrhea and boring beats. Maybe if they were mixed better, Cry Blood Apache would stand a chance. But for a $15 ticket on the Emo’s main stage, fans should expect better.
Then there was Survive, an electronica band composed of four dudes with synthesizers, which was about three too many, given how simplistic (and not in a good way) the music was. Let me hold down this note for a really long time while I head-bang so I look like a badass while my unwashed locks whip about and my neon green shirt blinds the front row. Again, this band suffered from too-loud preprogrammed drum beats that were stale to the point of being distracting. I’ve never heard the words “horrible” and “gross” uttered so many times at one show. But even the UT sorority girls who showed up for that cool Indian dude they heard on 101X weren’t fooled. Survive played some seriously sluggish dance music that put no one in the mood to dance.
When Neon Indian finally hit the stage, the people were hungry for something good, and they got it. Out of nowhere, random crowd members were making it rain glowsticks.
The lights were down all the way, giving the spotlight to the projected visuals. I appreciate the multimedia approach to playing shows, but in this regard Neon Indian could learn from The Octopus Project, who are the masters of mixing visuals with music in a live setting. NI’s visuals were lackluster at times.
Still, for such a young band, Neon Indian really has its shit together: Alan Palomo has charismatic stage presence. When he moves, it’s with purpose. The dude is fierce, which is a word you don’t usually reserve for indie dance music. And his surrounding players are good enough to make the music catchy in a live setting without overtaking Palomo as the rightful frontman of the group. Imagine this band two or three years down the road; they have the potential to be scary good.
Neon Indian played at Emo’s in Austin on June 7, 2010. Get more photos on our Facebook page.