One of my friends claims that people in Portland don’t like to dance. Let me amend that for her: people at 21 and over shows somehow feel too cool to bust a move. However, Neon Indian, riding the surge of chillwave, helped ease that stereotype. At least, for the people standing close to the stage on that unseasonably warm Portland evening.
Touring in support of his much-lauded debut Psychic Chasms, Alan Palomo led his four piece band through a brisk set that lasted little more than 30 minutes, yet delivered a proper taste of his synth-led, summery music that not only references, but furthers this decade’s obsession with the hazy pop of the ’80s. However, while Neon Indian can seem dreamy on CD, in the live setting Palomo adds a level of playful aggression that Psychic Chasms lacks.
With his long curly hair covering his face and flying wild during the many crescendos of the evening, Palomo and company churned out the Italo-flavored beats that made the Portland crowd stomp and would have made Giorgio Moroder smile. Yet while the tickles of tunes such as “Deadbeat Summer” and “(If I Knew You, I’d Tell You)” filtered out over the club, I really began to see what a delicious little confection the sounds of Neon Indian really could be. While this so-called glo-fi movement lacks the emotional resonance of say Antony and the Johnsons, Palomo seems more interested in evoking a mood rather than plunge us into sadness. Both are avenues to true beauty, sure, but the road Palomo has paved is much sweeter to follow.
Yet, the music of Neon Indian isn’t only about dancing and experiencing the elusive allure of summer. “Ephemeral Artery” and “Local Joke” have tinges of sadness about them, yet it is a sadness we are willing to dance away. And dance we did, the joy palpable in the air and even though Palomo has a limited cache of songs to draw upon, Neon Indian gave us a reason to dance and smile. So much for that adage about Portland hipsters. Palomo and his sun-drenched dream-beats melted away that barrier.
(Photos: Frank M. Siringo)