What it was like: '80s disco pop fueled by synths.
Neon Indian won't release its debut album until October 13, but the trio, fronted by Alan Palomo, has already created a sizeable buzz judging by the packed room. Early in the set, Palomo said this was the act's first gig, but said later it was the third gig but the biggest one yet. And they've got ton of gigs other lined up throughout next few months as well. While it was hard to actually see the band because of a low stage and the packed room, Palomo, backed by a bass player and a drummer, made some thoroughly listenable music with vintage synth sounds and mid-tempo disco backbeats. As Palomo called for more reverb, a guy from the crowd yelled, "more everything." When the trio kicked into "Deadbeat Summer," which has some massive hit potential, that inadvertently answered that guy's prayers for "more everything."
Verdict: Killer beats and synths paired with cool visuals. These guys are going far. -- JSThe Dandy Warhols, 3:30 p.m.
What it was like: Seeing a band so good at indoor venues play an outdoor stage.
At the beginning of the show, Courtney Taylor Taylor played percussion on a song heavy with ominous low-end with percussion and synth bass. With the spacey, spectral keys the song almost sounded like a later Joy Division tune like "In a Lonely Place." A very different sound for this band, though it may represent a change in direction of some kind, and probably the most interesting performance of the show.
Of course the Dandys didn't skip on the hits, including "Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth" and "Bohemian Like You." Having seen the Dandys a couple of times before, struck me as a little on the tame side. That's not to say it wasn't excellent but when you've seen a band on fire you know the difference. The set ended with a less edgy-than-the-original version of "We Used to Be Friends."
Verdict: An enjoyable showing from one of the best bands of the last decade and a half, but they played things a little safe for a festival appearance. -- TMThe Love Language, 3:40 p.m.
What it was like: Smart lo-fi indie pop.
The opening song for Chapel Hill's the Love Language started slow, beautiful and Beatles-esque, which seemed like an odd choice to kick off a set. But once the group ramped up the intensity and started rocking out, it was it easy to see that it was a brilliant opener. They kept energy surging into a poppy and bouncy tune, which was one the highlights of the set, followed by the pounding toms of the third tune. The band slowed it down a bit for a poignant number with hints of Memphis soul. But throughout it all, it seemed these folks were giving a heartfelt performance that put a smiles on people's faces.
Verdict: These guys and gal delivered a sincere set of smart, catchy pop that your mom would probably like too. -- JSThe Thermals, 4 p.m.
What it was like: "Fuck you! I mean, if it's alright. Is 'screw you' OK?"
Let's do a compliment sandwich (thanks, Alex) for the Thermals. They can write some ridiculously catchy choruses. Their first three albums are unforgettable. If you're looking for some punk-ish anthems, but your skeptical of the militant thing, the Thermals are your band.
But they're getting kinda old for a punk band and they've started giving in to their shiny pop tendencies more and more. It's still catchy, but in a lilting side-to-side way, rather than an up-and-down head banging way. At one point Hutch Harris was kneeling, and he flipped a bird with a sort of cutesy, apologetic smile on his face. Come one, dude.
That said, some of the new stuff is still awesome. Their newest single, "We Were Sick," is unstoppable, with a sing-along hook you just want to keep hearing. Bassist Kathy Foster is one righteous babe, and drummer Westin Glass plays drums like a little kid in the best possible way.
Verdict: I miss the old days. -- KM