Live Review

Neon Indian, Bottom Lounge, Chicago

A terrific live act that wholly encompasses the carefree feel of an idyllic summer night.

Neon Indian have blown up in a big way this past year, coming from virtual mainstream obscurity with frontman Alan Palomos’ name only tied to a handful of lower-profile electro dream-wave projects like Ghosthustler and VEGA to a year later topping most reputable critics’ 2009 year-end lists with the breakout debut ‘Psychic Chasms’. The album was a strong first outing that playfully blended swirling 1980s synth, popping 8-bit glitch, and psychedelic dream pop amblings. Despite being deserving of praise for his ability to the capture faded Polaroid-esque summertime nostalgia with catchy glo-fi beats, Palomo also ran the risk of being unpleasantly throw in with the bandwagon of kitsch-filled acts that stand behind MacBooks bobbing their heads to MP3s.

However, Palomo more than proved himself and the dynamic possibilities of his starry-eyed, low-fi grooves by recruiting a full band for tour duty. The decision not only showed off the group’s potent musical ability, but also offered a new crisply punching dance-ability to Neon Indian’s sometime hazy synthetic sound. The band, consisting of Ronald Gierhart (guitar), Jason Faries (drums), and Leanne Macomber (keyboard, vocals), made for a perfect melding of 1970’s pysch-rock, 80’s throwback electro, and indie-pop sensibility.

From the moment the members of Neon Indian take the stage for their pre-Pitchfork Festival Bottom Lounge bash they have the crowd furiously dancing and shaking to their unique brand of summer psychedelia. The crowd’s excitement clearly resonates with the band, and the intensity of the morning hours continues to peak as Palomo and company deliver album standouts ‘Terminally Chill’, ‘Psychic Chasms’, and ‘Should Have Taken Acid with You’. Each song is delivered with a genuine roundedness and richness that seems to surpass the recorded versions by pleasantly straddling the stay-at-home-and-chill nature of the album while more clearly conveying the feel of a danceable indie-pop club hit.

The night culminates with a psych-heavy rendition of Neon Indian’s catchiest single and fan favorite ‘Deadbeat Summer’ with the band ecstatically jumping, stomping and strutting across the stage. The song and its performance perfectly sums up the woozy, happy-go-lucky sentiment of the night that leaves fans happily sweating as they shout out for just one more moment of the Chicago summer festival christening bliss.

Neon Indian have set the bar high for summer 2010 performances and unquestionably secured their spot on everyone’s post-Pitchfork Festival playlists. They are a terrific live act that wholly encompasses the carefree feel of an idyllic summer night. It is hot, sweaty, dizzying chillwave at its finest.

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