Western-themed rockers dressed for the part Lord Huron began their set Nov. 19 at Amoeba Hollywood with “Ends of the Earth,” the opener of Lonesome Dreams, the band’s recently released debut record. The fact that the band brought the bongos that appear on the song to the crowded stage shows what detail means for the band, who didn’t skimp on additional instrumentation beyond the typical guitars-and-drums setup. That attention paid off, as Ben Schneider and his band’s music was nicely layered without sounding cluttered. The set made the most of the band’s five-man makeup, utilizing starry guitar lines and soaring harmonies to great effect. The band turned in a splashier version of “I Will Be Back One Day,” rocking out a bit harder while making the vocals less of a priority. The sound of ocean opened to the galloping rhythm of “Time to Run,” a clear crowd favorite. “The Man Who Lives Forever” proved the band’s most impressive song live, beautifully syncopated and stuffed with gorgeous guitar work, complete with slide guitar and harmonic playing. It was amazing to hear what they could accomplish with just a handful of guitars, echoing the sounds of banjo, southern rock and Eastern-influenced tonality. See more photos of the show here. Read my interview with Schneider here.
Friday I caught Tame Impala at The El Rey Theatre. I’ve been sick for over a week with a stupid head cold that makes my eyes start to shut around 10 p.m., but I was determined to see my favorite current band — and El Rey shows end early. The first thing I noticed was that the show was packed, and not entirely with your garden-variety hipsters. Older folks and lots of BROS. But like, cool, sensitive ones. Cause Tame Impala have left their Australian lily pad of coolness with their latest album, Lonerism, which has garnered the band great widespread acclaim and support from Pitchfork, KCRW and the like. So they upgrade to The El Rey from The Echo, where I think they played the last time they were in these parts.
The show was a terrific and intricate head trip. Opener “Be Above It’s galloping beat and cool, whispered chant were strange and hypnotic, though not arena-rousing and sounding even more insular live, as frontman Kevin Parker sounded somewhat alone and plaintive amid his produced psychedelia, much as he must have when he made this record in relative solitude while in Paris. However, especially once the live drums kicked in, the show excelled by pairing crowd-pleasing moments, like “Music to Walk Home By’s” triumphant riff, with inward-looking sections, such as the same song’s extended middle passage that favors exploration to momentum. The show moved back and forth between songs from Lonerism and its predecessor, Innerspeaker, an album with more obvious, radio-ready riffs and arrangements. The distinction between the newer and older material was a bit awkward, as songs like the ethereal and moving “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” sounded odd next to songs like the kickass but more rawking “Lucidity.” That was likely a byproduct of only having two albums out and headlining a show — there’s only so much material from which to pull. But I was pleased to see the audience react with glee to just about everything Parker and co. threw out, from the motor-riffery-meets-Stereolab-clockwork of Innerspeaker’s “Desire Be Desire Go” to the strange, spiraling “Endors Toi” from Lonerism. I kept thinking of fellow Australians AC/DC while staring at the band’s long hair, and how Tame Impala are kind of like the brainy alternative to that band. Ultimately the band’s occasional awkwardness is not only endearing, it is one of its most alluring qualities. Both Lonerism and Innerspeaker are excellent albums, despite the former’s superiority and their tendency to not jibe that well live. And the audience seemed rapt — this wasn’t a show for shoegazing, even if the music would seem to inspire that from afar. That can be attributed to Parker’s consistent energy within the music, which constantly evolves and only settles into a groove momentarily before some new time signature or psych explosion turns things inside out.
Watch Tame Impala's recently released video for “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards.”