After Washed Out’s impressive show on Tuesday, I wasn’t sure another night of chillwave could top what I’d already seen, but within moments of taking the stage, I was proven wrong. Alan Palomo looks like if young Jake Gyllenhaal and Diego Luna had a lovechild. He’s pint-sized with a rakish charm that’s undeniable.
Palomo was born in Monterrey, Mexico, and then moved to San Antonio, Texas with his family as a child, but despite leaving Mexico years ago, his pride hasn’t diminished. Looking out into the crowd, I realized there was a huge Latinx turnout. After starting the set with the electronic bossanova sounds of “Annie” off their new album Vega Int’l Night School, Palomo shouted “Quien es Mexicano aqui?” and the crowd literally roared.
Vega Int’l is certainly a departure for Neon Indian. After rising to fame with 2010’s Psychic Chasms, whose hit “I Should Have Taken Acid With You” defined the chillwave movement, their subsequent albums have been creeping further away from the generically indie space. I personally fell in love with the band after hearing “Polish Girl” off 2011’s Era Extrana, but Vega Int’l pushed the envelope even further into experimental, lush, electronic Latin sounds. It feels like the kind of album The Police might have made if they traveled to Mexico in the mid-80s. It’s synthy and still heavily influenced by New Wave, but it lights up the dance floor and is noticeably bouncier than their earlier work.
I stood behind a trio of young boys, probably in their late teens, who had waited hours to get the perfect spot at the very front. There were two girls behind me in their twenties who giggled when Alan started gyrating. Lots of couples on dates. Palomo, who introduced his bandmates Jorge Palomo, Drew Erickson, Jason Faries, and Max Townsley, slithered around the stage in a very millennial-meets-normcore all-white ensemble that the rest of the band also wore. With the super saturated multi color lights, the stage felt like Brazilian Carnival.
As the set went on, the crowd got rowdy. Not mosh-pit crazy, but about as rowdy as a chillwave show can probably get. Lots of pushing forward, tons of iPhones in the air, and when Palomo threw his hands in the air, everyone followed suit. The lights danced over smiling sweaty faces in the crowd and the energy was palpable. Neon Indian certainly gave the people what they wanted.
Words and photos by Stephanie Varela Rheingold