The line between good nostalgia and bad nostalgia can sometimes be blurry. Tuesday night at the Larimer Lounge was not one of those times. While the headliner had clearly cultivated and manipulated Reagan-era post-disco influences toward a new artistic and creative vision, opener Tigercity was happy simply being those influences. Their set played out like a greatest hits album from a washed-up band made famous for its billboard-topping hits inclusion in some crummy ’80s blockbuster.
The weirdest part was that they looked nothing like they sounded — an odd combo of ’90s hardcore and ’70s punk. The singer sported a bald head and beard, crooning falsetto melodies while the bassist harmonized the “look into my eyes / ‘til the morning light / tell me anything you want” lyrics in a black tank and tight jeans with long, thin hair. Though it was a bit bizarre, the band was nevertheless moderately successful at getting the crowd into the right mindset. By the time Neon Indian took the stage, however, any memory of Tigercity was all but gone.
Texas-bred buzz band Neon Indian’s lo-fi electro-pop concept translated brilliantly to the full band format as the group emerged a quartet. Mastermind Alan Palomo, who composed, arranged and performed the entirety of Neon Indian’s debut album, was front and center. With drums, guitar and keys taken care of by his bandmates, Palomo was left to focus most of his attention on vocals.
He massaged his voice through a cornucopia of knobs and pedals that were connected to a box overflowing with cables, which hung like a tangle of vines to the stage. His hollow face wore a 1,000-yard stare through sunken eyes that was a little creepy, but also captivating in a “Bad”-era Michael Jackson intensity as he lock-stepped alongside his band’s stable and steady stomp.
“Local Joke,” “Mind Drips” and “Terminally Chill” were delivered without a hitch, faithful to their recorded originals. Flexible synth lines worked just as well — better even — on a fuzzy guitar, and the live drums added a substantial girth to the band’s core. It certainly got a decent-sized crowd more than a little intrigued, bobbing methodically to the beat. But it wasn’t until they dropped their album’s title track that the show really kicked into high gear.
The psychedelic “Psychic Chasms” surfaced about four songs in, and was the night’s standout. Aside from being an amazing song with an achingly catchy melody, the cut ended with an assault of Galaga blaster sounds and a raucous rock-out coda. As the tune finished, the room was instantly abuzz with chatter and excitement and every note thereafter had just a hair more bounce, enough to convert any remaining still-standers over to head-nodding believers.
All in all, the band’s thick, soupy mix didn’t exactly make for a throw-down night at the Larimer, as most dancing was kept to a level of reserved self-enjoyment. But if anything, this only made the music more the of show’s focal point. Despite a slight glitch in the set’s closer, the performance made for a memorable evening, sure to leave its patrons humming those tunes for days to come.
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Crawford Philleo is a Denver freelance writer, musician and regular Reverb contributor.
Joe McCabe is a Denver photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb. Check out his website.