Neon Indian for some reason hasn’t come to Toronto in four years. While that seems really long, they also haven’t been touring a lot over that span and only released one EP between full-length albums Era Extraña in 2011 and last year’s excellent follow up VEGA INTL. Night School. As time went on after opening act Computer Magic played, the crowd got impatient thinking that the end of every pre-show music song played over the sound system meant the band was coming on. The Lee’s Palace show was sold out and packed tighter than usual as people came ready to dance.
With some cardboard cutout images dotted along the stage including some music notes, a saxophone and a motorcycle helmet there was also a cursive neon sign in the back corner of the stage that when turned on glowed a bright blue and read Night School, the same art installation featured on the album cover. The four piece band was set up to the back and off to the sides in order to give front man Alan Palomo plenty of space to dance around.
Neon Indian kicked it into high gear right away and played their blend of chillwave meets psychedelic funk and didn’t slow down the music at all in their brisk hour long set. VEGA INTL. Night School standout track Annie was played very early in the night, which had the crowd cheering on. Shows work best when the audience and the band feed off each other and giving both more energy. Palomo danced like he was the 80’s new wave version of Michael Jackson, sliding across the stage and finger snapping to the beat. Guitarist Max Townsley and bassist Jorge Palomo (brother of Alan) kept the show grounded with funk beats that were easy to dance to as keyboardist/wizard Drew Erickson transported us to the weirdest corners of Devo and Kraftwerk’s discographies.
The highlight of the night came during Slumlord as the crowd ‘oh-ohed’ along to the chorus and clapped to the beat. Jorge Palomo went into an extended bongo solo that managed to take over our body and succumb to the music. As I turned around to see the crowd’s reaction (I managed to get in early enough and secure a front row spot) all the way to the back people were dancing, and not just bobbing their heads dancing. You could be excused if you thought you accidentally went upstairs into Dance Cave, the nightclub directly above the Lee’s Palace stage as the scene would have been identical.
Palomo commented that the idea of encores never have been, nor will they ever be cool but based on the “symbiotic relationship continues” between the crowd and the band they would “totally play a few more songs” after their set ended, aka an encore! The band was at its best when it was locked in a continuous jam with face melting keyboard and synth solos. During the encore there were plenty of cheers when Polish Girl started playing. Palomo promised he wouldn’t wait four years to come back to town and if you missed them you must see the band next time, and for those of us that were there to witness the magic, we won’t be skipping out either!