Unknown Mortal Orchestra at the Echoplex

Cara Robbins

Unknown Mortal Orchestra at the Echoplex

Worth the Drive: Unknown Mortal Orchestra at the Echoplex

Foxygen Open Sold-Out Friday Night Show with Gothic Tropic, Wampire

It may only be February, but I’m already placing bets on 2013’s best-of lists. Why? Because so far this year has brought with it two stunning new releases from the likes of Portland psych rockers Unknown Mortal Orchestra and L.A. up-and-comers Foxygen. That both UMO’s II and Foxygen’s We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic excel in tripped-out, guitar-driven orchestrations and subtly genius lyricism is, it turns out, only part of the appeal, though. Together at the Echoplex on Friday night, the two bands also proved to be hot-ticket live acts, capable of not only executing but one-upping their recorded counterparts.

Following two solid mood-setting sets from Portland foursome Wampire and recent Muddy Waters alums Gothic Tropic, Foxygen’s young — very young — members greeted a lively hometown crowd of friends, fans, and family. In both quiet (“San Francisco”) and loud (“Shuggie”) modes, these kids were downright magnetic, calling to mind the over-the-top theatrics and out-there in-jokes of a Rocky Horror Picture Show revue. On stage, frontman Sam France, guitarist Jonathan Rado, and vocalist Elizabeth Fey didn’t just pull off the recorded goods, they managed to fuse chaotic energy, artful nostalgia, and that indefinable feeling of a watching a band on the verge of something great.

Of course, if anyone was up to the challenge of upstaging the Foxygen kiddos, it was UMO. What the trio may lack in members and presence they more than made up for in stage setting and sonic fidelity. Below a backdrop depicting their wizardly album art and surrounded by a mandala-like candle setup, frontman/guitarist Ruban Nielson, bassist Jacob Portrait, and drummer Gregory Rogove deftly shredded through highlights like “Faded in the Morning,” “So Good at Being in Trouble,” and “Ffunny Friends” with distortion pedals and vocal effects a-blazin’. It easily made for one of the most dynamic, nuanced, and full-sounding club sets I’ve heard of late, not to mention one of the most impressive album-to-live-show achievements currently making the rounds.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra Setlist

1. From The Sun

2. Thought Ballune

3. Bicycle

4. How Can You Luv Me

5. One At A Time

6. Faded In The Morning

7. No Need For A Leader

8. Strangers Are Strange

9. Jello and Juggernauts

10. Monki

11. Swim and Sleep

12. FFunny FFrends

13. So Good At Being In Trouble

14. Boy Witch

15. Little Blu House

16. The Opposite Of Afternoon

17. Nerve Damage!

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