Two characteristics about Alan Palomo’s Neon Indian stand out that distinguish its sound from most other electronic acts: the decidedly hazy, lo-fi sound, and the way that the vocals are often so casual and buried in the mix that you could mistake them for someone reading to themself in the next room. These qualities are evidenced by titles like “Deadbeat Summer” and “Terminally Chill”, and are what lead some to lump a number of likeminded acts into the subgenre chillwave, electronic music’s answer to shoegaze. These are also qualities that tend to work much better on record than in front of an audience, especially one that’s expecting to dance, as was the case on Thursday, April 5th, at the appropriately lo-fi Rhino’s Youth Media Center and All-Ages Club in Bloomington, IN.
The band took the stage quickly, giving all the cues that we were in for a night of shoegazing, starting immediately without addressing the crowd while some were wearing sunglasses in the even-darker-than-normal and fogged club. Palomo’s vocals were at least as buried in the mix as on record, and equally lackadaisical. The band’s stage presence matched his vocals, but there was a stark mismatch between the energy of his vocals and that of himself as a performer. He shimmied and swung around the stage, earnestly delivering vocals that arrived as a hush. The crowd fed off of this energy, which in turn fed the band. By the time the standout track “Fallout” from last year’s second album Era Extraña came in the middle of the set, the band was ready to make it a standout of the set too. Perhaps the slowest song in the Neon Indian catalogue, it is somehow also one of the most energetic. This energy comes in the form of the tension created by the immense, cloudy and ominous pulses that infrequently jolt an otherwise plodding song to life. The band jolted along with it, dropping each towering note on the crowd, which they gratefully accepted.
Now they were ready to have some fun with the bouncy “Psychic Chasms”. Although still pretty chill, after the weight of “Fallout” was off people’s shoulders, it seemed like such a rager that someone thought it would be an appropriate song to stage dive to. With the band fully loosened up, it was the perfect time to move right into crowd-favorite “Polish Girl”, perhaps their most danceable song. This kept the newfound party going, which continued into “Deadbeat Summer”.
The crowd had warmed the band, and the space between songs was now filled by Palomo talking to the crowd instead of the abstract, icy sound collages that marked the early stages of the set. After finishing what Palomo said was their last song, he concluded that they would play a few more songs right then, instead of going through the disingenuous process of waiting for the crowd to urge them out for one more. As the show ended and the audience turned around, you could see that the crowd had condensed to the point that the once-full club now had an empty back half, an area that they slowly and reluctantly reoccupied on their way out.