[16 May 2011]
Docile is not a word to describe Tame Impala. Ferocious? Yes. Wild? For sure. So those going solely off the name on the marquee at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall were in for a shock when the prowling quartet let down their shaggy manes and unleashed the animal behind their predatory blend of psychedelic dream rock during night one of the Australians’ sold-out, doubleheader showdown.
“Why are you all so quiet?” drummer Jay Watson frequently asked the shell-shocked crowd who seemed to be instinctually frozen in terror and awe at the marvel of these majestic creatures, surely a new species of modern musicians who still know how to rock the fuck out.
Watson, alongside vocalist and lead guitarist Kevin Parker, guitarist Dominic Simper and bassist Nick Allbrook borrowed from the classic masterminds who preceded them in an hour-plus set, exasperatingly honing in on Jerry Garcia’s stamina while modernizing the fuzzy drone with spacey Stereolab structures. Song like “Desire Be Desire Go” and “Lucidity” (from last year’s stellar release Innerspeaker) transgressed time in the best possible continuum, as believable in Woodstock footage as they would be at next year’s Pitchfork festival.
The whole spectacle came off as an advanced physics and sound experiment with oscillators warping large-scale graphics on a screen behind the band that seemed to change shape as much as the music’s wavelengths, creating an altered state of entertainment that even David Lynch would be jealous of. The Aussies proved to be not only band geeks but geniuses, as one look at their Matrix-style effects setup proved … which could forgive their wardrobe choice of giant Jamiroquai fuzzy hats.
As the night’s best track “Expectation” wrapped, Watson again addressed the crowd: “Just so you know, when we’re done, we’re done. Tame Impala doesn’t do encores. We’re not that hardworking.” For the first time the crowd moved and swelled closer to the lip of the stage to catch the last moments of the night’s feeding before the band went back in its cage. Watson, we call your bluff and dare you to find a more hardworking band; Tame Impala just may be the “it” band to bring the phrase out of extinction.
Openers Yuck also did the time warp in their set, albeit to a more recent era with a catalog of early ‘90s alter-nation from their self-titled debut released earlier this year. With his mop top, singer Daniel Blumberg could have easily been the lost member of the Jesus and Mary Chain but aesthetically offered a strong bloodline to the masterpiece collection of Dinosaur Jr.
Although his posture was hunched over the stunted microphone stand for much of the set, Blumberg was nothing if not confident in his delivery, buoyed by a crew of skilled music mates who seemed to have coordinated their patchwork denim wardrobe; among them guitarist/vocalist Max Bloom, bassist Mariko Doi and drummer Jonny Rogoff.
It was the British band’s first time in Chicago, according to Blumberg, who quaintly noted the city’s thriving music scene as represented by indie buzz band the Smith Westerns. Ironic since SW got their jumpstart at 2010’s Pitchfork set, the same stage Yuck will undoubtedly find their footing this summer.