Palm, Palberta, and Horse Jumper of Love. It’s the type of bill more likely to garner a monosyllabic curse word response than a casual “oh yeah, I saw them once.” And a warm, dry, night in late July was the perfect setting for this storm of a show to descend upon us.
If you haven’t seen Horse Jumper of Love yet, you’re doing something wrong. While a little quieter than most, their recent set at Great Scott featured all of the staples one should expect, including: bass player John Margaris’ microphone feedback while the sound engineer tried to adjust for the very intentional vocal placement, drummer Jamie Vadala-Doran staring at his cymbals the way you wish your lover would stare at you, and vocalist Dimitri Giannopoulos mumbling the most genuine thanks you’ll hear from a band. Throughout the night, the trio graced the crowd with quite a few new tracks, including some longer, more drawn out compositions from their upcoming record. 8 Mile played on TVs in the back. It was a jolly ol’ time.
I’ll admit that I came to Palberta’s set completely blind to what they were about. But I heard a voice in the crowd sum them up to a friend before their set, saying, “Oh yeah, they’re great, weird and all but they switch all their instruments a lot!” And while every member did indeed play each instrument at one point or another, if that’s all you took away from their set then you didn’t pay attention. Palberta did an excellent job of giving listeners a refresher they didn’t know they needed. They provided a heavy dose of quick tunes that gave potent nods to no-wave and other aggressive musical movements, and it was impressive was how well they paid attention to the negative space in their songs. If a song is a sculpture of sound, then silence is as important as the notes themselves. The balance between overabundant dissonance and elongated silence is an oft forgotten craft, leaving plenty of concert-goers unprepared for the amount of respect and attention the music requires, and transforming the less attentive into positive hecklers who “WOOHOO” at every available silence. In addition to winning the crowd over with their well spaced music, Palberta intrigued fans with an unusual guest; one of band members was lucky enough to have her 97-year-old grandfather in attendance. Seated in the front row, he sat respectfully listening to his granddaughter’s set in its entirety, making him one of few who can claim to have both lived through WWII and seen a Palberta show.
Next up was Palm, whose latest record, Shadow Expert, has been out just long enough to give it many good listens, and if you’re like me, fully appreciate the album from front to back. But unlike Palberta who drove into sonic experimentalism by ways of harsh confrontations, Palm mirrored that energy with the polar opposite output of pure bliss and groove. Their performance captivated everybody in the room, hypnotizing them to move in unison while also leaving everybody asking themselves what the hell was going on. While they played, listeners attempted to follow the melodies and beats, which was not an easy task, but definitely one worth trying. After each song the crowd was buzzing with people audibly saying “wow,” and by the end Palm more than lived up to my initial reaction over the lineup.
A few months ago, I asked a friend of mine what the definition of Art Rock was, and after a long moment of silence the only way she could define the genre in its most relevant form was with one word: Palm. And after this performance, I think they proved worthy of the title.
Palm performing “Walkie Talkie”