“How you feelin’ San Francisco?” a sharply dressed Alan Palomo called out to a tightly packed crowd in the low-lit Regency Social Hall. The 27 year-old lead singer of Neon Indian stood center stage, his face masked in pink and blue neon light. This intimate show was a landmark for the band: it was the first time they’ve played in San Francisco for three years. Neon Indian’s sudden resurgence most likely coincides with their upcoming album “VEGA INTL. Night School” (out Oct. 16th).
Palomo, a solo artist who produces his albums, was joined by long time friend and drummer Jason Faries joins, but guitarists, bassists and keyboardists rotate regularly. “We wanna share some new stuff with you guys tonight,” he said confidently.
Heads bob and bodies swayed under the green rippling lights, anticipating the start of the show. The group transitioned easily into their song “Annie”, released earlier this year as a single. Its intrigue lies in an upbeat, playful, processed melody paired with lyrics describing Palomo waiting for a call back from who we assume to be his lover. This song should have a spot reserved on a feel-good summertime playlist alongside some of Neon Indian’s older hits that earned them their reputation.
The band’s claim to fame lies with Pitchfork-approved songs like “Deadbeat Summer” and “Polish Girl,” both representative of their synth heavy downtempo-pop sound. Their classic “chillwave” ballads qualified the band to play at big-name festivals like Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, SXSW and Coachella. 2011 marked the release of Palomo’s most recent album, “Era Extrana,” where he updated his sound from the effect heavy, low-fi first album Psychic Chasms (2009), to a more clear and pop oriented type of music. They’ve also warranted remixes from the likes of Bibio, Twin Shadow and Toro Y Moi. Since this year’s release of “Annie,” and other single “Slumlord,” it has been a long time since we heard anything new from Neon Indian.
The band gained momentum as the night advanced. With each familiar hit the crowd’s energy picked up, especially as they eased into their fourth song “Terminally Chill.” Everyone knew this one by heart and began to exchange lyrics with the musicians. The distorted doo-wop sound paired with sparse airy lyrics like “lengthy days in a lovesick haze chemical fire” make up your archetypal Neon Indian song.
Interspersed between these favorites, the band confidently jammed out to their new material. Palomo seemed to be experimenting with a new reggae psychedelic rock sounds reminiscent of Tame Impala’s trippy melodies or Wild Belle’s pop-reggae vibes. While this may feel fresh for Palomo and crew, it most likely won’t be innovative enough to entice a new fan base. However, his new work has undertones of familiar video game sound effects and his reliably repetitive lyrics.
After their long awaited performance of “Deadbeat Summer” followed by a swift exit, Neon Indian came out for an encore performance taking the stage again to play “Polish Girl.” This prompted writhing dance moves and crowd surfing from an enthusiastic audience which continued through the band’s final song that happened to be a new jam.
The lights went up and the show ended with many thanks from Palomo and his bandmates leaving the satisfied, slightly sweaty crowd buzzing. Needless to say, Neon Indian’s distinct signature sound will always keep loyal fans coming back for more.
Photo courtesy of Danielle Maingot/Foghorn