Photos by Andy Moran
Hype is a difficult thing to come out of unscathed – working your way out of a fad even more so. Hell, even calling chillwave a fad might be an overstatement, as it was more like a temporary blip on the surface of modern indie. As it currently exists, it’s more of an inside joke among those who were in the know: “Remember chillwave? Harr harr.” Most of its major acts have either completely moved on (Toro Y Moi and our current subject, Neon Indian), or they were never really part of it in the first place (Tycho).
Neon Indian, really just an alias for Alan Palomo, took a few stumbles out of the chillwave hype, but it seems like he has finally found his footing. After the initial excitement of his debut, Psychic Chasms (for my money the best album out of the short-lived genre), had worn out, his big league Era Extrana failed to create a lasting impression despite David Fridmann’s impeccable production job. Four years later, Vega Intl. Night School has Palomo digging himself out with a spring in his step, a groove in his soul, and a sound to move forward with. A completely packed show at the Paradise full of twentysomethings seemed to agree.
Computer Magic, aka Danielle “Danz” Johnson, opened the show and proved to be just as enthralling as the main act with swirling analog synths and deep bass squelches. While the presentation might not have been completely unique, there is a beautiful pop rush to Johnson’s compositions. Despite being a relatively unknown act in America, she has made a big splash in Japan (something she probably appreciates given her Spinal Tap-inspired name), and it shows in her fusion of experimental synth sounds and overtly melodic vocals.
Next, when Palomo and his band took the stage, one thing was very clear: He has completely abandoned any ties to chillwave, and his show is better for it. A captivating frontman, he worked himself into a dancing fit as he gracefully moved around the crowded stage, crouched over with fists pumping close to his body. Behind him his newly formed four-piece grooved into newer cuts “Dear Skorpio Magazine” and “Annie” with a fierce intensity.
As fun as it was to watch Palomo glide around the stage, it was hard to keep your eyes off of their light show. One of the more unique setups around, the band’s movements were captured and translated into moving points of light that would frequently freak out and glitch up. Other times those points of lights would quickly smash together and move like a slowly melting oil painting.
“If there’s any Berklee kids here, I’m sorry for holding the drumsticks the wrong way,” Palomo slyly remarked before turning around and looking at his band. “In fact … most of this band are from Berkeley!” Drummer Jason Faries and bassist Jorge Palomo (Alan’s brother) put the rhythm front and center with some deep-hitting grooves and justified the band’s bold choice in predominantly playing new material. Older songs like “Mind, Drips” and “Deadbeat Summer” benefited from his new band’s rhythmic push and moved beyond their lo-fi origins into dance floor fillers.
Palomo is a survivor in the truest sense of the word. It would be easy for him to coast on past victories, but Vega Intl. Night School and his tour around it only sees him pushing further into the unknown.