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Neon Indian's Electro Pow-wow

By Sarah Cobarrubias in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 19, 2010 7:00PM

Friday's Tomorrow Never Knows festival show at Schubas started off on a weak note with Chicago DJ collective Only Children, who mixed a mediocre set for a meager 20-person crowd, barely visible through the unbearably thick smoke of a fog machine gone haywire. The smoke cleared and the crowd started shuffling in near the end of the second act, Truman Peyote. Delivering lo-fi electro in the same vein as Neon Indian, the Massachusetts-based duo shocked us with an intense performance. The post-set smokers outside were all abuzz with questions about where Truman Peyote came from and where they would play next. Local mash-up maestros The Hood Internet followed with their dependably bumpin’ beats and riled the crowd into one hell of a fun dance party.

But headliner Neon Indian was truly the main event. The 23-year-old producer and songwriter Alan Palomo is the mastermind behind this synth-pop project, but he brought along a guitarist, drummer and keyboardist to back him up on stage, giving his signature lo-fi sound a fuller, more complex feel. Palomo took the mic, moving between sequencer and synth in a frenzy of sonic manipulation, creating gorgeous layers of sound over mellow beats. He seemed to have limitless energy as he danced up a storm on stage with a series of robotic jerks and agonized writhes, like some sort of strange, beatnik interpretive dance.

He started off the set with “6669 (I Don’t Know If You Know),” a dreamy arrangement of reverberating vocals, warm psychedelic beeps and oscillations, and a rhythmic beat that got the crowd swaying. He performed most of the hits from Neon Indian’s first full-length, Psychic Chasms, such as the self-explanatory “Should Have Taken Acid with You,” a trippy tune full of symphonic spirals and reverberating vocals. And of course, he played the nostalgia-inducing “Deadbeat Summer,” a buoyant, retro melody that blends beautifully warped guitar, staccato synth sounds and Palomo’s woozy vocals; it’s the kind of song that you’d expect to hear on a lazy, heat-wave afternoon at some summer block party in the ‘80s.

Palomo closed the show with an encore featuring “No Reasons,” a song attributed to his other pseudonym, VEGA. It was a funky, bouncy beat that left the crowd high on energy and begging for another encore. Unfortunately, this show served as the last stop on Neon Indian’s winter tour. But don’t be disappointed, because Palomo recently tweeted about a “6669” video in the making. And word is now that the tour is finished, he’s going to start recording another album as VEGA. Whichever alias Palomo plays under, one thing’s for sure: we’re going to hear a lot more from this synth-pop savant in the future.