If forced to select two bands worthy of contempt, it would unequivocally be Of Montreal and Animal Collective. The latter, having once been witness to a masturbatory and artless 20 minutes on stage where they did nothing but drop a ping pong ball on a tympani, and the former for the primacy of their flamboyant gaudiness vis-à-vis the music itself. Which is to say, one might assume that I would Bolt, Usain-style, from a show featuring a band that has been compared to…Of Montreal and Animal Collective. Assumptions, of course, are meant to be challenged.
Painted Palms is a duo of lanky cousins from San Francisco by way of Louisiana — Reese Donohue and Christopher Prudhomme. They performed at Washington, D.C.’s Black Cat as a three piece, and their psych-influenced and sway-worthy tunes were definitely more Panhandle than Bourbon Street. Their quickly melodic songs are hookier and without the annoying repetitiveness of Animal Collective, and are supplemented with a thumping low end that carried the relatively brief set into the realm of danceability.
It’s remix ready music where guitar can morph into synth, and vice versa. Melodic tendencies are at times evocative of the 60s-California vibe upon which The Raveonettes and Best Coast riff. Other songs show off vocals with a Surfer Blood inflection. And still others flirt with a (suddenly popular in indie circles) Chinese tonality that would have formerly seemed more natural coming from a San Francisco band than, say, a Brooklyn one. (Shout out to my boy, globalization!). They accomplished this in an endearing fashion, a fashion almost stylish enough to grant a waiver to the shoeless keyboardist for his sartorial temerity. Almost. Their live show won’t set your hair on fire — at least not yet — but there are strong signs of serious talent sprouting through the soil.
Ruby Suns headlined, and presented the audience with music for the moment. More specifically, music for leaving yourself and your troubles behind in the moment. And that’s what it is; there isn’t anything particularly memorable about their time on stage, but it does offer a distraction from the real world. Their California-meets-Kiwi construct is less Paul Simon than his notable acolytes, Vampire Weekend, and a bit less cohesive as well. There’s the down-under influence of Crowded House and Cut Copy. The sounds of early-80s era guitar popularized by bands like The Cure. There’s a lot going on, basically, and while it wasn’t cohesive it definitely had the hoodied hipsters shimmying and shaking in a way that resembled dancing.
While they weren’t bad by any means, they either have no idea how to end their songs live or just don’t care enough to tighten things up. Overall, though, the question is not their virtuosity — in particular, their drummer kicks ass — it’s the unfocused nature of their compositions. The overall impression left by their performance was diminished, no doubt, upon exiting into the main bar and immediately hearing the dramatic contrast of a primal call to action: …That’s when I reach for my revolver… The kids may be alright, but they could learn from bands like Mission of Burma.