By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
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There were bigger names at the Monolith Festival last weekend—the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Of Montreal, Phoenix, Girl Talk, The Mars Volta—but deep within Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado, in an indoor performance space with a limited audience capacity, Alan Palomo, Jason Faires and Leanne Macomber, who together perform as Neon Indian, proved quite the draw as well.
"I'm surprised," Palomo said, opening up to the sweaty, eager audience at the WOXY.com-sponsored stage, shortly after beginning his act's highly anticipated performance. "This is quite the crowd!"
Yeah, it was: The room's limited capacity was reached before the band started its set; even members of dance-pop favorites Passion Pit and Chromeo were locked out at the performance's start. So, OK, sure, while the band had played its official debut earlier last week at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios in Denton and offered up another performance before it to Chicago audiences, this was, for all intents and purposes, the band's coming-out party.
Quite the party it was, too, even if it only lasted 30 minutes. Just a few phasered-out synth samples in, and any question as to how the band's slacker summer dance tracks would be received were answered. Despite the fact that the band's debut release still won't see the light of day until October, the hyper-aware music fans at Monolith sang along as the band launched into "Terminally Chill," the first song the band leaked to its Internet fan base earlier this summer. They danced unrelentingly to "Deadbeat Summer," another of the band's many leaked tracks over the past few months, looking like they'd had plenty of practice, which they probably had, albeit in the privacy of their own homes. And they geeked out, wide smiles covering their faces, as Palomo led the audience in a sing-along that he recorded, promising to include it in an upcoming track.
Thirty minutes is hardly a long time—especially at a weekend-long festival like this one—but, without a doubt, Neon Indian made the best of its time at the forefront of the festivalgoers' attention spans. When the set came to its close, audiences cheered maniacally before scrambling off to the grounds' other stages to catch more of their indie rock heroes' performances. But even as the crowds scattered about, the mood remained celebratory as the members of Neon Indian huddled off to stage right, packing up their freshly purchased gear and soaking it all in. Friends and fellow musicians, including P-Thugg (who'll soon be Palomo's label mate, as Palomo's other project, VEGA, is finalizing a deal to see its own debut album released on the chic Fool's Gold label), rushed over to offer congratulations and pats on the back.
"I thought it went fantastic," Palomo offered after the band's 30-minute set came to its close. "There was a little bit of anxiety beforehand, like if we even [could] pull it off. But I was real happy with how it went."
He had every right to be—pulling off the band's largely computer-processed sound live was without a doubt the biggest hurdle facing Palomo's project as it prepared to tour. And though the live sound is perhaps a little more sleek, less lo-fi and less distorted than on record, it still possesses the same nostalgia-filled, sun-warped pop sound that got it attention in the first place.
It's tough to tell, though, if the crowds, having listened to this Dallas-based project all summer long over their computer speakers, even noticed a difference. Whereas crowds at the band's local debut in Denton last week may have seen a band somewhat uncomfortable in its live show—the Rubber Gloves performance was rife with extended pauses as the band carefully prepared each sound and instrument before each song—the Monolith crowds were treated to what they've come to expect from Palomo, thanks to the successes of his VEGA and, before that, Ghosthustler outfits. As Macomber and Faries coolly played their parts behind him, Palomo emoted and pouted out each vocal part, swaying to the beat like a man possessed by his own sonic creations.
"Monolith blew the Rubber Gloves performance out of the water," Palomo candidly offered. "It was exciting. We've had this online presence all along, but it's cool to have people from Pennsylvania and New York come up to you after the set and say how much they enjoy your music. It really all went off in such an amazing way."
And even though Palomo's original promise at the onset of Neon Indian's online arrival—that Neon Indian would be different from his other projects in that the live show would come also with a live video display—has yet to come true, Palomo promises that, as the band becomes more comfortable in its live show, those elements will be added in.
"Right now, I want to first tackle performing it live in a way people enjoy," Palomo says. "For right now, the main goal is to cut our teeth. This is the proving ground."
And, just three shows into its career, Neon Indian's off to a fine start. The band's already proved that it doesn't need a gimmick—well, none beyond its catchy sound, at least—to garner the right kind of attention.