Neon Indian, Messrs & Es Ist Super @ Rocket Bar, Adelaide (25/2/12)
On the opening weekend of the Adelaide Fringe, punters might have been called crazy for visiting the West End whilst the East End was abuzz with festival fever and the Garden of Unearthly Delights beckoned doughnut-eaters. Well call me crazy, but the West End had a few tricks up its sleeve on a balmy Saturday night. The name of the game was Neon Indian, bringing summer shimmer and many sweaty bodies up the hazardous staircase into Rocket Bar.
The only way I can describe Neon Indian’s sound is to equate it to floating in an incandescent river while playing Nintendo 64 and imbibing Wizz Fizz (I’m talking about the real white powder here of many a childhood). There is such complexity yet simplicity to the sound that it’s no wonder so many buzzwords have been coined, the most notable one being “Chillwave” which has stuck to the band like bubblegum to your favourite shoes. Chillwave was the moniker of 2009 and Neon Indian was branded with it when they emerged with ‘Psychic Chasms’. On their Facebook page Neon Indian describe their music as, among other things, acoustmatic and tape. Acoustmatic is a fitting descriptor, evoking acoustic, automatic and asthmatic all at once. It’s like the guitar-keyboard formula had intimate relations with the technological wonders of 8-bit and lasers, all set to the asthmatic clicking of a tape reel.
Regardless of whether the buzzwords are getting old, the nostalgic electro-pop shimmers remain. Neon Indian’s recent release ‘Era Extrana’, meaning either “she’s strange” or “strange era”, still gives listeners that kicked-back electro space travel vibe. The Texan band gave a showing of tunes from both Psychic Chasms and its newie Era Extrana, enough to please old fans and potentially draw some fresh blood.
First up in the sweat-room (aka Rocket bar on a stinking hot Adelaide night) was Es Ist Super, a local band who have previously landed a Does It Offend You Yeah support gig. Es Ist Super started off the summer nostalgia with their unashamed pop sounds and invoking twilight BMX-riding and handclaps.
As one punter described it: “I like it when he uses those wooden sticks.” Whatever your method of description, there were foot-tapping tunes and the scent of summer with delicately angular guitars and gentle punk-tinged spoken-sung vocals.
Messrs followed up with expected flamboyance and energy on the small cable-tangled stage. The well-known Everyone Knows got a whirl with its howls and menacing vocals and building soundscape, but the content crowd did not shun the other tunes as Messrs piled on layers of synth and guitar riffs like they were preparing for a cold snap.
Whatever was expected from their first Adelaide shindig, Neon Indian did not disappoint after they made their unassuming entrance on stage. They delivered the shuddering, pulsing synths the dance-ready audience expected, offset perfectly by Alan Palomo’s soft murmurings.
Polish Girl from the new album pumped the heart valves with its distinctive recurring synth riffs sparking and bubbling away. Dropped elsewhere, Terminally Chill rebounded off the walls and into ears like a Ghostbusters ectoplasm dance. The sweaty bodies on the dance-floor shook and shimmied willingly as the smoke machine bellowed its disturbingly bubble-gum scented cloud into the stuffy air. Perhaps to set a stoner-like scene for Deadbeat Summer’s lazy, lounging, hands-in-pockets ambiance and the obvious Should Have Taken Acid With You, which was pulled out of the hat for the encore and was all nostalgia and a little bit Nintendo.
Accompanying Palomo on his synth-laden journey were Leanne Macomber and Jason Faries, who’ve previously played with him. Josh McWhiter strummed guitar, while Ed Priesner entered anew to tame the electronics. The whole performance was fuss-free; it was all about the music with some minimal chit-chat doled out sparingly by Palomo and Macomber.
When it came to the necessary encore the band gave on any attempt to sneak off stage and wade through the encircled crowd, with Palomo commenting on usually having less conspicuous places to disappear off stage. After the last synth vibration echoed out, the band left the stage with just as little pomp and ceremony as that which accompanied their entrance.