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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Neon Indian @ Turner Hall Ballroom

May 18, 2011

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In addition to being one of the leading lights of the chillwave scene, Neon Indian, also known as Alan Palomo, has recently gained notoriety for his high profile collaboration with The Flaming Lips, the unimaginatively titled The Flaming Lips 2011: The Flaming Lips with Neon Indian. The pairing makes sense. Both acts share an affinity for wonky synth weirdness and Day Glo colors, but while it always pays to have the approval of your psych forebears, Palomo was doing just fine on his own, with his 2009 effort Psychic Chasms landing high on Pitchfork's list of the 50 best albums of that year.

Openers Oberhofer, a sub-par indie-rock act, played to a thin crowd of people clustered around the stage. Polite applause followed each of their songs, but whenever they were playing, you couldn't help but notice a disinterested stillness among the audience.

By the time Neon Indian took the stage, the crowd had filled out considerably, though not as much as you'd expect for a hip band with a $10 cover. Palomo's band has got an agreeable sound, full of bouncy synth lines reminiscent of The Cure, filtered through the psychedelic lens of The Flaming Lips and filled out with the textural richness of an Animal Collective. And yet, there's something oddly unmoving at the heart of their sound, an unidentifiable absence that dooms them to being just a fun night out, as opposed to something more substantial. Even their stage presence seemed a little hollow, as when Palomo clambered on top of an amp in a classic act of rock abandon, but came off as simply miming an empty gesture.

But a fun night out is still a fun night out, and it was an affordable one at that, even if it wasn't the kind of show that turns audience members into evangelicals (well, maybe aside for the people who showed up in American Indian headdresses and neon face paint, but they were clearly already among the converted).

On a geekier, note, it was rather weird to see a theremin set up center stage only to have it used for a couple of fills and one (admittedly very cool) solo. A theremin is like a knife, if you're going to whip it out, you've got to be committed to using it.