On June 29, I went to see the up-and-coming indie psych-rock trio Unknown Mortal Orchestra at The Space in Hamden. I had first discovered that New Zealand/Oregon-based band two years ago when, early in my position of writing reviews for the Redscroll Records blog, I received a promotional copy of their self-titled debut and later reviewed it. I was intrigued by their very retro-sounding, colorful 60s flair, right down to the twanging guitars and laid-back vocals, so I was excited to finally see them live.
A total of three bands played that night. The first was Connecticut’s own 2 Ton Bug: a last-minute addition to the night’s lineup, the quartet plays a mix of garage rock and synth-punk. I was particularly excited to see them, as I had already fallen in love-at-first-listen with their song “Jump This Gorge” upon hearing it. Their performance lived up to the expectation, proving to be pretty fun.
The second act was a duo (using a third member for touring) from Mississippi: Bass Drum of Death plays straight-up jamming garage rock. There’s not much else to say except that the tightly packed crowd really got moving to their exciting lo-fi rock.
The best experience, of course, was watching Unknown Mortal Orchestra complete the night: they played a great, groovy mix of songs from both their albums, including the recently released II. I knew it was going to be great when they kicked off with my favorite song from the latest album- “The Opposite of Afternoon” – before exploring material that’s both older (“Thought Ballune,” “How Can You Luv Me,” etc.) and newer (“Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark,)” “From The Sun,” etc.) In true psychedelic fashion, there were some stretches of trippy instrumental experimentation, which mostly involved singer/guitarist Ruban Nielson crouching beneath eye level for the lengthy solos, to massive cheers from the crowd.
It was a very enjoyable, stress-lifting experience, even for someone like me who usually leans toward more bizarre, harsh kinds of music. When in line to get my ticket, I talked to an older fellow who, like me, was wearing a tie-dye shirt. He said that he wasn’t very familiar with Unknown Mortal Orchestra, only really going because a friend recommended he check out their music. After the show, I asked what he thought, and the response was “wow.” It goes to show just how well this band handles their music, giving a fresh twist on a musical style that gains fans from not only this generation, but also those that remember it when it was a brand-new thing.