Tame Impala makes all their roadies wear lab coats. This didn’t really affect their concert at The Depot this past Friday in any meaningful way, but it is awesome.
I arrived at The Depot right as Kuroma, who apparently have members of MGMT‘s touring band, were walking on stage and getting into their first song. These guys play a really great blend of psychedelic rock and sunny, beach-ready indie pop. After they finished their first song and I’d gotten settled on the main floor, their guitarist ran off stage and disappeared for about three minutes because he’d left his electric guitar on the service elevator on the side of the stage. We had to wait for him to come back up before they could continue their set. The other band members filled time with banter and told us about how they saw a man get tasered earlier that day.
Anyway, once everyone had their instruments, Kuroma blazed through the remainder of their set, with songs that only got better as they went along. They alternated between songs with sunny three-part harmonies, jammy psych rock breakdowns and interesting, distorted guitar solos played on an acoustic guitar. I wasn’t totally into them when they started, but by the end of their set I was totally sold, and even left with a new favorite song of theirs, “Passionate People,” from their latest full-length album. Kuroma might need to name-drop MGMT to get press to pay attention to them at this point, but they’re far more interesting than that band, and lead man Hank Sullivant kinda looks like Danny Elfman, so they’ve got that going for them too.
I think this was the first show I’ve been to at The Depot that was all-ages—or at least the first that I can recall—and it makes for a pretty different atmosphere when nobody in the crowd has a drink in their hand. For one, it meant that some people were getting drunk quick, since they couldn’t bring their drinks away from the bar. This manifested itself in the guy near me who kept trying to get the crowd to chant “Don’t do drugs!” every third song during Tame Impala’s set. It also led to the crowd being younger and more energetic than a lot of shows I’ve been to at The Depot, which led to someone’s sandal being thrown onstage after they crowdsurfed toward the end of the show.
Tame Impala got onstage around 9 and started their set with the drippiest psychedelic jam of the evening, which had me a bit worried that I wasn’t going to enjoy their show for—until they transitioned right into the awesome eight-minute “Let It Happen” from their upcoming album Currents. From then on, it was hit after hit (do Tame Impala have hits?) until the night ended, with some requisite weird jam sections to confuse the audience mixed in.
My friend, who loves Tame Impala, told me that their singer/songwriter Kevin Parker once told an interviewer, “I eat phasers for breakfast” when he was asked about the effects pedals he likes to use when writing new material. I have no idea if he actually said that, but it seems fitting. Based on his Reddit AMA he seems like he has a good sense of humor, and most of Tame Impala’s material is covered with phasers, delay and reverb.
About halfway through their set, after several songs with the phaser turned to 11, Parker stepped up to the mic and said, “Enough wishy washy!” Then they broke into the awesome riff of “Elephant” from Lonerism. There is very little that is “wishy washy” about this particular song compared to the rest of their catalogue—it almost feels like a Queens of the Stone Age song—and they drove the point home by inserting a few minutes of reggae jamming into the middle of it, just to fuck with everyone.
I think that may have actually been one of the best parts of this concert. Tame Impala make generally poppy music, but they aren’t afraid to insert an extended jam in the middle of their songs. Most of the time I HATE it when bands do this, because most bands suck at it, but Tame Impala pull it off really well, and in some cases it really improves the original song. For example, “Be Above It,” the opening track from Lonerism, is a fairly mechanical song in the Tame Impala discography. Live, they use quite a bit of back tracking to pull that song off, and the drum part isn’t even really played live until they shift into a really awesome extended jam at the end that realy lifts the song to a new level.
Most of their set consisted of songs from Lonerism and the few songs from Currents that they’ve released so far, and after finishing off their set with an awesome version of “Apocalypse Dreams,” they turned on the annoying feedback and walked off stage for a really long time. They were gone so long in fact that one of their lab coated roadies came on stage to turn off the feedback and got booed! A minute later another guy walked onstage and got the crowd to start cheering again after we started losing steam. Turns out some of the members of the band had to “go to the toilet” and took turns blaming it on each other as they came back onstage.
Right before they started their encore with “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” someone in the audience held up their bright smart phone with the message “LET’S BANG” pointed at Parker. He said he couldn’t tell if they were a guy or girl, but that he wasn’t opposed to it either way. Once they actually got into the song, the crowd went nuts. It hadn’t exactly been a mellow show before that point, but I’m pretty sure everyone in the audience was getting into it when they started playing the song that everyone knows. After that, they closed out the night with “Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control,” with its weird song structure and multiple false endings.
I’ve never really been into psych rock at all, but something about the way Tame Impala do it really hits home for me, and this concert was probably the most blissful thing I’ve done in a long time. I hope they manage to make it back after Currents comes out. They seemed to have a fun time, and I’m sure everyone in the audience did as well.