Alan Palomo may have revitalized shoegaze with Neon Indian — but he’ll need a little more focus to make it stick. In front of a surprisingly large crowd (even to Palomo, as he pointed out early on) at the Bluebird Monday night, he fronted a touring four piece for a satisfying, if a little dense, hour long set. They pulled musical bits and stylistic pieces from rave and electronic dance and folded them into swirling, thick swaths of ambient techno that matched the smoke that filled the venue.
While that may sound enticing, there was something in the mix that prevented it from really connecting with the audience. Bubblegum pop hooks hidden deep inside that had a distinct Hall & Oates-meets-Nintendo feel distracted from the psychedelics — almost contradicted them. Palomo’s vocals — soft, effeminate, whispy (you would think perfect for a shoegaze-type sound) — weren’t quite lost enough and added a sort of disco tint. He would be better off to pass singing on to someone who has the charisma to force the vocals above the mix.
The audience almost coupled on a few tunes — particularly “Polish Girl” and “Hex Girlfriend,” both from the new album “Era Extrana.” While a few groups danced, most spent the set competing with the stage in conversation.
Visually, the band’s set had an interesting steampunk feel that echoed the subtle paradox in its name. The rear of the stage was centered by a monolithic, pyramid-shaped (tee-pee shaped?) and armored structure, apparently nothing more than a light fixture. It brought an interesting, if confusing, air to the show.
Com Truise played a powerful, rave-techno set before Neon Indian that, by contrast, had no trouble pairing with the audience. Wielding synth pop from multiple keyboards, mixers and effects, and joined by a fantastic live drummer, Seth Haley had the entire place jumping, swaying and dancing throughout his entire 45 minute set. Haley is definitely a denizen of the rave/dubstep scene that includes Skrillex, Tiesto and more — but where there’s a tendency in that genre to get explosive, even abrasive — Haley’s style stayed smooth, less aggressive. The difference worked well.
Brittany Moore is a Boulder-based photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb. Check out more of her work and her blog here.