Live Review: Little Big Show #13, with Neon Indian, Explorer Tapes, and Aqueduct

Little Big Show, Live Reviews
09/23/2015
Gerrit Feenstra
all photos by Jim Bennett

Starbucks, STG, and KEXP collaborate once again to bring you the next installment in their Little Big Show series. I can't believe we are already on #13! Every show in this series does the same thing, each time with a different beneficiary. 100% of tickets sales benefit a Seattle area organization dedicated to supporting and upholding the arts in our community. That's a pretty huge deal, and we here at KEXP couldn't be happier to be a part of it. This time around, the organization to celebrate is Northwest Tap Connection, and the band helping us out with that was none other than the finest in psych-pop brilliance, Neon Indian. Together with Explorer Tapes and local band Aqueduct, Little Big Show threw a synth-heavy party for a great cause - truly an unbeatable combination.

NW Tap ConnectionAs is the case with every Little Big Show, the real star of the evening is always the community organization that the evening serves to benefit, and with Northwest Tap Connection, this was shown off more than LBS has ever seen before. As they describe themselves on their website, "Northwest Tap Connection is dedicated to building the whole dancer through a love of dance, personal discipline, respect for the community, respect for fellow dancers, and knowledge of the history of the art form. We provide an environment where dancers can grow artistically and technically, and at the same time can develop leadership skills and social responsibility". While DJ El Toro got a chance or two to explain the great things the organization is doing in their communities, for the most part, the crowd got to see the change happen for themselves. Dancers of all ages made use of a tap board set up in the front rows of the theater to show off in two wonderful performances. With tonight's ticket sales, we raised over $11,000 for Northwest Tap Connection. Check out their website to see what great things Northwest Tap Connection is doing for Seattle, and check the photos below to see what magic these kids can work.

Northwest Tap Connection:

Northwest Tap Connection

NW Tap Connection

Northwest Tap Connection

Kicking off a night of synth pop magic was one of Seattle's own (technically from Tulsa, originally) gods of the synth-rock landscape. Aqueduct returns this year with Wild Knights, their first record since their departure from Barsuk in 2007. However, the band relied heavily on new material burning through most of their new LP, rocking killers like "Simpleanimal", "Legend of Kage" and "Street Fighter" with a fervor. David Terry couldn't be more fun to watch up on the Neptune stage, having a ball with the playful crowd and cracking jokes in between wherever possible. The songs don't sound like they've ever grown out of the mid-2000s, but the way Terry gives them to you, it would be wrong any other way. The crowd jammed along and was adequately warmed by the last strum of classic "Growing Up on GNR". If you want to hear the new stuff, catch them with Of Montreal and Diane Coffee at the Neptune on Halloween. It will be a riot.

Aqueduct:

Aqueduct

Aqueduct

Aqueduct

Aqueduct

Aqueduct

Aqueduct

Neon Indian's touring opener comes from within the band itself - Alan's help on keys and guitar make up Explorer Tapes, a brand new act with an LP on its way soon. Like Neon Indian, they are San Antonio via Los Angeles, and they repurpose the synthesizers of yesteryear for sonic recycling in the modern day. Unlike Neon Indian, Explorer Tapes tend to choose sweeping ballads over psychedelic freakout. Slow dance masterworks like "Julia" and "Kids These Days" stole the crowd, even without ever hearing the track before. Elsewhere, alt-country burners like "It All Depends On You" gave them an appropriate lock on their geography. We don't know much about Explorer Tapes yet, but when their LP drops in the near future, this won't be one to ignore.

Explorer Tapes:

Explorer Tapes

Explorer Tapes

Explorer Tapes

Explorer Tapes

Explorer Tapes

On the spectrum of his contemporaries, Alan Palomo finds himself on the more chaotic end. Where others choose synth-pop and repurposed new-wave as a form to induce a sense of nostalgia or familiarity, Neon Indian ditches Back to the Future and goes straight for Primer, with more parallel universes than anyone can keep up with. It's something that fans have come to expect from Alan, and with VEGA INTL. Night School on the horizon, there's less than a month of time left before we dive headlong into another psychic odyssey. But to whet our taste buds, Alan has embarked on an expansive tour in support of the record, playing almost all of it live... all before it comes out.

I can honestly say, tonight here at Neptune, this is the most fun I've ever had dancing to an hour of music I've never heard in my life. Night School tracks abounded, from the disco shimmers of "The Glitz Hive" to the pounding dark-wave grind of "Slumlord", and all weirdness in between (see: the bizarrely inverted arena anthem "News From The Sun"). A handful of familiars graced the new tracks (Psychic Chasms classics "Deadbeat Summer", "Mind, Drips", and "Terminally Chill", along with Era single "Polish Girl"), but they were far from the evening's focus - more a treat for good behavior. Alan was dead set on debuting Night School in the most bombastic, contentious way possible. With his five piece band, the sheer size of Neon Indian has, at the very least, quadrupled. Lead single "Annie" sounds massive, like the band you always imagined Neon Indian could be if they shook the (ahem) chill that has stalked them. As we've seen it thus far, Night School is sweeping and vivid, but also challenging and murky, and in every instance, completely over the top. It's a Neon Indian record well worth the four year wait, so much so that fans danced relentlessly through an evening of completely unfamiliar music. This is as good as testament as any to the music being presented here.

Of course, it's also a testament to Alan's electric presence as Neon Indian's figurehead and five-piece band frontman. Palomo was a natural pop star on stage, bantering with the crowd with ease and getting plenty of reciprocation on requests for participation. Every song became a surefire single within a minute of its introduction. This new and vivacious Neon Indian is what the world has been waiting for. Now we just can't wait to blast the record and invite Alan back for a more familiar party.

Neon Indian:

Neon Indian

Neon Indian

Neon Indian

Neon Indian

Neon Indian

Neon Indian

Neon Indian

Neon Indian

Neon Indian

Neon Indian

VEGA INTL. Night School is out next month on Mom + Pop.

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