Brighton Music Hall was graced by the wondrous powers of psychadelia last night, its sundry side effects afflicting the audience with lethargic wobbles, close-eyed robot dances, etc etc. Any dilettante could diagnose these phenomena as being symptomatic of some solid psychadelic grooves, and so it was.
Wolf People opened the night. The band featured three solid guitarists, an amenity they utilized to the fullest. There were doubled and tripled solos performed additively, creating some incredible layers of harmony that were often elaborations of the initial motifs in the songs’ beginnings, and these guys were technicians—the timing and execution was impeccable. There were frequent key changes and impressive musicianship through and through; it was an exhibition of potent progressive rock (and the kick was so heavy, one might even classify the music somewhere in the periphery of progressive metal). The vocals, however, did leave something to be desired. The lead singer—one of the three guitarists—had a distinctly pleasant voice, but his control in the upper register was nearly nonexistent; when he climbed it sounded as though he’d spent his day yelling, the effect of which left the crowd with a guy that sounded like Ian Anderson recovering from bronchitis. Still, Wolf People is definitely a promising up-and-comer. Check out this jam (there were some positive Jethro Tull likenesses as well, although the Brighton Music Hall performance was sans flute, unfortunately).
Unknown Mortal Orchestra headlined the bill. The American/New Zealand trio continued Wolf People’s use of unpredictable musical material, both harmonically and melodically. For a lo-fi psychadelic band, UMO features a rare aptitude for filling musical space; lo-fi’s fuzzy approach to sound clarity rarely produces music with such crisp, cogent themes. Lead singer and guitarist Ruban Nielson was especially impressive; he played both rhythm and lead while showcasing effortless vocals and some dirty dance moves. The performance was reminiscent of a Steely Dan that lost the lounge and the fanfare and sent their sound through fuzzy distortion pedals. Both bands are remarkably accessible for the complexity of their chord sequences and unusual melodic contours. That balance between intelligibility and intricacy has helped Unknown Mortal Orchestra garner critical acclaim for their first (and only) two albums. This may be their best song, and it was beautifully reinterpreted in an acoustic encore by Nielson. Last night was an apt representation of what this band can do, and the sky’s the limit.