Just chilling at the Grog Shop

This past Saturday night (October 15, 2011) might have been the greatest night of my life. This is not an exaggeration; I seriously mean that it might have been the absolute greatest night ever.

And, if not the greatest night ever, it certainly ranks among the best nights; and it certainly is in my top two concerts of all time ever.

Neon Indian playing "Fallout" at the Grog Shop in Cleveland Heights.

If you’re wondering what this past Saturday was, you might remember me mentioning that Neon Indian was going to be at the Grog Shop in Cleveland Heights. I adventured to Cleveland Heights with a friend, and I don’t think we realized exactly what it is we were in for. As I’ve mentioned before, Neon Indian is among the chillwave artists currently gaining some popularity, especially in indie music circles.

However, this show I’m about to review was as far from “chill” as you can imagine.

Here’s the rundown:

For starters, getting into the Grog Shop is always a good time. Everyone under 21 has to pay an extra $2 cover charge, obviously because none of us will be drinking. If you’re over 21, you have to provide ID. For some reason, half of the people going to the Grog Shop don’t seem to understand that to drink you need your ID. This is a thing that happens at (most) bars. People kept holding up the line because they needed to dig for IDs or didn’t realize they had to pay extra. Saturday night was that super windy night we had here in Northeast Ohio. I had a dress on. It happens.

Anyway, we got into the venue.

 I love the Grog Shop (so any complaining I have is minor, I promise). It’s a really small venue; it’s as intimate as you can get, at least in this area. The stage isn’t much higher than my knees – you don’t look up at artists, you’re more eye-level with them. If you want to get close to an artist, this is the place to do it. The monitors are set up so that people can seriously lean on them throughout the show.

We wandered into the Grog Shop and immediately melded into the crowd that was forming. Just after we got in, it was announced that the show had sold out – well before the opening band had even taken the stage. It was decided that we were going to slowly creep to the front, and we did just that.


Purity Ring performs live at the Grog Shop on October 15, 2011.

So the first band that took the stage was Purity Ring, a duo from Canada via New York City. Megan James has this haunting and beautiful voice that wobbles through everything, and it was mixed in ways throughout the set that just shook you up. They were the ideal opener for Neon Indian, too; once the first bass line knocked everyone over – literally – no one was afraid to dance and open up, just what Neon Indian needed. One of their songs, “Belispeak,” is actually available for free right now from Spin Magazine in their CMJ Mixtape download. (Not only do you get Purity Ring, but there are a few other gems nestled in there as well – for free!) Purity Ring is due to release a full album in January or February of next year, and I’m hoping that their live show will translate to an album (I think it will).

The Grog Shop is also good about quick transitions. We waited mere minutes for Com Truise to take the stage next. Com Truise makes mind-melting music. I don’t know how else to put it. From the first minute he took the stage until the last bleeps of his last song, “VHS Sex,” everyone was forced to move.People weren’t moshing or anything like that; this wasn’t a show that was filled with overtly violent people. But these people were hardcore dancing to this music, and justifiably so. I was crushed between all kinds of sweaty people, and yet we all seemed to be moving together. Of course, you had plenty of people trying to push to get to the front, but that’s all part of the experience.

Com Truise, aka Seth Haley, performing at the Grog Shop in Cleveland Heights.

And it was well worth it.

Mostly because, at 11:30, Alan Palomo and his band finally took to the stage. This was the moment that everyone was waiting for: Neon Indian was before us. Opening with “Terminally Chill,” Palomo and his band set the standard for the rest of the night. They ramped up “Chill” and made it almost dubstep worthy, with thumping beats, but still kept the original, well, chill quality of the song. You might think watching a band play synthesizers isn’t that interesting, but Palomo and his touring band are fun to watch. Chemistry flowed between them; every blip and bleep was produced at just the right moment, every drum kick came right when you expected it, and half of the songs sounded just as good in person as they do on my iTunes. Not only that, but from the start of the show until the very end, this was a group that was enjoying themselves. Seriously, you could tell how much they were enjoying themselves, and that made it that much better for those of us watching.

Polish Girl” (check out the Creators’ Project video!) had the crowd moving plenty, especially considering it’s the lead single from newest album Era Extraña and has been available for download from numerous websites for free. It’s also a good song for sing-alongs, while many of the other songs don’t have that ability. Everyone got involved when “Polish Girl” came on. You couldn’t help it! Other standout moments include “Fallout” (my personal favorite) and “Future Sick,” both from Extraña. “Psychic Chasms,” from their debut album of the same name, and “The Blindside Kiss,” a new track, were both winners as well. There was just never a dull moment – both the music and the performers held up for the entirety of the performance.

The only sad moment was the end! Neon Indian briefly disappeared and of course came back for an encore, which ended up being a rousing, fist-pumping, sky-grabbing, intense moment for band and crowd both. Throughout the show, Palomo owned the stage, his presence taking over, and it was wonderful to see it one more time. Plus, he profusely thanked the crowd a thousand times over for coming, as did the rest of his band. It was refreshing to see someone so thrilled that people cared for the music they made, and it was also refreshing to see that this was a band that had really come together to play music together. Neon Indian has nicely evolved from Palomo’s project to Palomo’s group.

Alan Palomo of Neon Indian performs Saturday night at the Grog Shop.

Whenever they’re back in Cleveland, whether at the Grog Shop or elsewhere, you owe it to yourself to see them.


In other music news:

  • Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore are getting a divorce. After having been together nearly 30 years, the couple is done, and there is no word yet on how their band will continue – if it will. They’re wrapping up some international shows, but the future is questionable beyond that. Is there such a thing as true love? The world may now never now.
  • Brandon Flowers, lead singer of the Killers, came out recently – as a proud Mormon. The four-minute video that appeared on YouTube just days ago has been stirring up some buzz, mostly because no one seems to know just how they’re supposed to react to it. Does it matter? Does it change his music? The debate rages on.
  • Rihanna’s newest video, the video for “We Found Love,” has just hit airwaves. I’m still not sure what to make of it… I think I really like it, but I’m not sure yet. So far, my favorite comment on the YouTube video has to be: “This reminds me of a Levi’s commercial.” AND IT DOES!
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