Yet another episode in the Coachella Migration series was brought our way last Wednesday, when Neon Indian cooked up a carefully synthesized batch of psychedelic dance tunes at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club. The five-piece brought their lo-fi sound to life in a swirling convergence of analog synths, digital keyboards, acoustic drums, electric guitar, bass, and myriad effects pedals, but the sheer amount of firepower on stage may have gotten the best of SOhO’s sound system, as the band’s subtleties were mostly lost in translation.
On record, Neon Indian is quite a phenomenon for indie music. Vocalist and composer Alan Palomo’s recording techniques recall the creativity of Yeasayer, and his prowess in penning thoughtful yet danceable songs rivals that of Phoenix, with whom they, perhaps unsurprisingly, shared a bill at the Santa Barbara Bowl two years back. The Texas-based project has certainly grown in style and scope since then, as proven by their sophomore effort, 2011’s Era Extraña, but the stage to which they were confined last Wednesday has not grown with them. As Palomo duly pointed out midway through the set, “There’s hardly any room to dance up here, so please bear with us.”
Despite the lack of space, Neon Indian did a commendable job in rolling with the punches. The set, which mostly pulled from their 2009 debut Psychic Chasms, was an interesting recreation of their warbled recordings: chattering, pulsating synths washed over the crowd during “Polish Girl” and “Psychic Chasms,” Palomo manipulated his breathy vocals into oblivion for set opener “Local Joke,” and all the while Jason Faries held it down effortlessly on drums. “Ephemeral Artery” in particular was a cerebral effusion of triggered samples and screaming solos, courtesy of guitarist Josh McWhirter, which properly set the stage for their encore.
Unfortunately, where Neon Indian’s sound should have reigned in brilliancy, the results were less colorful than one would have hoped. Feedback issues were persistent, especially during the encore of “Terminally Chill” and “Should Have Taken Acid with You.” Worse, the vocals were nonexistent for most of the show, and the mix was as crowded as the members probably felt on stage. A venue failure this may be, but it is more likely that these Indians are packing too much heat for a smaller indie club to handle.