El Rey Theatre
Better Than: Getting high in your parent's basement and listening to Physical Graffiti on repeat.
See also: Tame Impala on the Meaning of 'Lonerism'
Australian psych-rock quartet Tame Impala played the El Rey last night in support of their recently released sophomore LP Lonerism, the excellent and much-anticipated followup to 2010's Innerspeaker, which got album of the year label from a slew of important folks. Their epic, sophisticated and heavy show thrilled the El Rey crowd, and folks sang along to most every word.
9:50pm: Ticket scalpers are doing a brisk business outside the theatre. A man offers a pair of tickets to two guys. “How much?” they ask. “$100 each,” says the man. (This is five times face value). The two guys look at each other like, “That's a lot of money,” and before they can respond, another guy walks up, hand over a stack of cash, takes the tickets and goes inside. The two guys look sad. The message? This is a big time buzz band. There is no time for hesitation!
9:57pm: The El Rey is one of those venues where the security people are always fairly diligent about making sure people aren't standing in the aisle or anywhere else that has not officially been designated as An Area For People to Stand In. Tonight though, the crowd is bleeding beyond the boundary lines and no one official is trying to do anything about it. The vibe is loose and excited. I've never seen the El Rey so packed.
10:07pm: The band comes onstage. Lead singer Kevin Parker is not wearing shoes. Or socks. His voice is amazing.
10:11pm: There is roughly a two to one male to female ratio in the crowd, but most everyone is bobbing their heads along with their eyes closed. That's an equal opportunity “I'm really into this music” move.
10:16pm: Critics and other excited fanboy types have compared Tame Impala's sound to that of the late-era Beatles, which is obviously a good thing. And while Parker's voice is similar to John Lennon's and the music has a complex sonic elegance, Tame Impala's sound is vastly heavier, grungier and more deconstructed than even the Beatles most deeply-kaleidoscopic psych jams. George Harrison would totally dig these guys.
10:28pm: Most rightious keyboard solo since “Roundabout.”
10:30pm: Clouds of weed smoke rise from the center of the crowd.
10:35pm: Crowdsurfer number one.
10:38pm: The group's visual show is just an electric green circle that expands and contracts into various geometric forms along with the music. It's simple and perfectly suited to the sound and in moments kind of resembles the Eye of Sauron.
10:40pm: Bringing back the drum solo!
10:45pm: Crowdsurfer number two.
10:50pm: “Are you guys taking care of the ladies out there?” asks synth player Jay Watson, checking in on the females in the middle of the writhing crowd. In an Australian accent, this inquiry sounds exceedingly charming.
10:53pm: Drummer Julien Barbagallo is intense and excellent, providing a singular percussion that drives the sound. He totally rails on his drum set. He even slightly resembles John Bonham.
10:55pm: Crowdsurfer number three. The security people really don't like these crowdsurfers.
11:01pm: This the fewest cameras/phones I've seen held up at a show since, like, people only used flip phones. Alternate hand uses include: fist pumping, clapping, waving hands around wildly in the air in fits of musical ecstasy.
11:11pm: The group closes the show with a righteous version of Innerspeaker standout “Desire Be Desire Go.” People are dancing. Hard. In Los Angeles. This rarely happens. This is special.
11:19pm: The band comes back onstage and Parker jokes about playing the “Lana El Rey Theatre” as he drinks a Sierra Nevada. Then he tunes his guitar, somehow making it sound even more like liquid acid and magic, before launching into the encore.
11:24pm: Someone once referred to that moment during a concert when the band is jamming out and the crowd's energy suddenly elevates and everyone starts cheering in unison as “popping the cherry.” (Pretty sure this was at a Widespread Panic show). While this expression is questionable and kind of gross, people are, in fact, peaking on the power of the epic jam the group is injecting into the show-closing “Apocalypse Dreams.” “Goosebumps!” yells an excited woman standing next to me. “I've got GOOSEBUMPS!”
11:30pm: Available Tame Impala merch includes t-shirts, posters, a tote bag and a pillowcase, which, for only $10, is decidedly the most cost effective memorabilia option as it could definitely double as a tote bag and maybe even a t-shirt if you cut the right holes in it.
11:32pm: “I saw Tame Impala play the Echoplex the last time they were in town,” a young guy in a flannel shirt who is contemplating buying a Tame Impala pillowcase says. “They're definitely tighter than they were before, and have a more comfortable stage presence. Last time they just filled the whole stage up with smoke and shot lasers around. It looked like a planetarium.”
11:35pm: A pretty young woman with red lips in line for the bathroom says she's seen Tame Impala three times, (Coachella, Outside Lands, El Rey), and that the show has blown her away every time. Her eyes get huge as she describes each concert experience. “People say they're a throwback, but this is the rock of our time, and it's like…WHOA, so good, you know?” And I do. I think I really do know.
Personal Bias: If Tame Impala is the current state of rock music, rock music is doing just fine.
Overheard in the Crowd: “For Australians, these guys are really cerebral. Nothing against Australians though.”
Random Notebook Dump: “Old rockers, young rockers, guy rockers, girl rockers, hipster rockers, geek rockers, rockers who don't care about how much money they have to spend in order to rock.”
Tame Impala play tonight, November 17, at The Fonda.
See also: Tame Impala on the Meaning of 'Lonerism'
Set list below
Pluck a Chicken
Solitude Is Bliss/Jam
It's Not Meant to Be
Music to Walk Home By
Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
Why Won't You Make Up Your Mind?
Desire Be Desire Go
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