Words & Images by: L. Paul Mann
Phoenix & Neon Indian :: 09.19.10 :: Santa Barbara Bowl :: Santa Barbara, CA
A youthful energetic crowd arrived early for a concert by the Grammy winning French electronic rock group Phoenix. The early bird fans were
treated to an opening set by chillwave band Neon Indian. Chillwave is one of the latest labels for what is essentially the evolution of
electronic music. Ever since John Cage began experimenting with electronic gadgets in the 1940s to create a new
form of music, musicians have been transforming the synth music sound into an ever-evolving art form. At the
same time, music journalists have been constantly striving to invent new labels to describe each progressive wave of
innovative electronic music. Neon Indian is the brainchild of Alan Palamo. Much like John Cage before
him, Palamo began creating his music alone, experimenting along the way with new electronic music techniques. He
creates his music using a loop based Mac software program called Albeton Live. One of the first software
sequencers designed to be used in concert, Abelton Live is truly a whole new way to perform live electronic music.
Onstage, Palamo is joined by Ronald Gierhart (guitar), Jason Faries (drums) and Leanne
Macomber (keyboards). The trio creates a rich jam band backdrop to Palomos' eerie synths. Music critics were
instantly enthralled by the band's first release, Psychic Chasms, and their live shows have received near-
universal praise. The band was the perfect warm up for Phoenix, and their dreamy sound sent many fans into a
As the the sun set into the Pacific Ocean and twilight fell over the Santa Barbara Bowl, an impatient crowd surged
towards the stage in anticipation of Phoenix, who finally obliged and took to the stage in an explosion of light and
sound. They wasted no time enrapturing the audience, opening with their biggest hit "Listzomania." Thousands of
frenzied fans gyrated to the music and screamed their approval. Charismatic vocalist Thomas Mars
immediately engaged the crowd and sang confidently in his quirky trademark voice.
One of the most widely successful pop acts ever to emerge from France, partly because they write interesting lyrics
and sing in English, Phoenix has developed a unique sound. Like their label mates Air, the band exhibits some of the telltale
traits popular with other French pop bands like strong synth tracks and overpowering bass lines. But the band also
features strong English language harmonies and visceral rock jams, uncharacteristic of other successful French
groups. The resulting sound has enabled the band to create steady stream of hits for the past decade. Their latest
album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, has propelled Phoenix into an arena filling live band, who sold out the
18,000 seat Hollywood Bowl the night before the Santa Barbara show.
Phoenix is now a veteran live rock act and besides Mars' commanding presence all the core members have become
consummate performers, as well as accomplished musicians. Guitar players Laurent Brancowitz and
Christian Mazzalai prance about the stage, dancing and smiling while trading riffs and meshing catchy
rhythms. Bassist Deck D'Arcy lays down a mesmerizing, relentless beat uncharacteristic of his French pop
By the time the band played their fourth and final encore song, "1901," the entire Santa Barbara crowd was in a
dancing frenzy. The synth drenched dance club hit is mandatory on any contemporary DJ's playlist. This final song
brought the band's 90-minute set full circle, delivering sheer excitement from the opening notes to the final closing
crescendo. Vive La Phoenix!
Lisztomania, Lasso, Long Distance, Fences, Girlfriend, Armistice, North, Love Like a Sunset, Pt. I, Love Like a Sunset,
Pt. 2, Run Run Run, If I Ever Feel Better, Rally, Rome, Funky Squaredance
E: Love For Granted, Les Enfants, Everything Is Everything, 1901
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