Imagine a more distorted, hazy and intense Passion Pit, with less focus on melodic clarity, and you’ll have an approximation of Neon Indian. The Texas collective, lead by Alex Palomo, are amongst the forerunners of the ‘chillwave’ genre. It’s a grouping which is little more than a bunch of indie hipsters thinking up bizarre new names for genres that already exist.
Tonight, Palomo is joined by a live band that is not only very skilled, but gives the songs from debut album Psychic Chasms a new lease of life. Drummer Jason Farles spends all evening busting out grooves that sound heavier and meatier than on record. Keyboardist Leanne Macomber is at ease throughout, grooving away whilst playing synths and shaking tambourines. Guitarist Ronald Gierhart, all long-haired and looking like he belongs at a Dinosaur Jr gig, adds some impressive-sounding licks and solos that give the melodies a new persona.
But attention is focused on Palomo, who throws himself into the live performance. When he’s not twiddling nobs, pressing keys or even messing around with a theremin, he’s working himself up into a trance that he only interrupts when he signs. His vocals, just like on the album, are heavy on reverb.
The songs sound better live. The synths of Sleep Paralysist spark across the venue like wildfire; what on record would be a straightforward burst of keyboard during Local Joke becomes an almost skyscraping slice of guitar. Deadbeat Summer gets the biggest cheer of the evening. It is all very impressive.
And their onstage confidence is really starting to blossom. As a live band, they are very appreciative of their audience and seem genuinely pleased with the reaction to their set. They even attempt the ‘audience handclapping’ trick, which Palomo admitted onstage was not something they’d normally do. Either way, it proves that Neon Indian aren’t a band with their eyes glued to laptops.
This hour-long set is one that not only shows Neon Indian as at the top of their game; it hints that they’re capable of better things and playing larger rooms. Hipster buzz may have gotten the band to where they are, but on tonight’s evidence they’re unlikely to wither away any time soon.