Last Friday was the official stoner holiday, 4/20, and we can't think of a more appropriate band to bring the house down at Music Hall of Williamsburg than psychedelic prog-rockers Portugal. the Man
, whose hour and a half long set was a showcase of the best kinds of prog-rock excess. Supported by openers Beast Make Bomb
and the Lonely Forest
, Portugal. the Man captured the attention of the audience at Music Hall even though it would be fair to guess at least 50% of (the very young) audience were wasted and/or stoned out of their gourds (the show was part of the Jagermeister Music Tour which explains the booze that was flowing like water) . In fact, I'm still fairly certain that I left the venue with a bit of a contact high because of all of the materials being passed around by Portugal's wildly enthusiastic fans.
Beast Make Bomb started out the evening with a 25 minute set. A four piece from Brooklyn, Beast Make Bomb strike a balance between noise rock and surf rock which has been very popular with several of the opening bands I've seen over the last several months. Perhaps, we're seeing the beginnings of a new subniche emerging in the indie rock scene. The group settled into a nice rhythm with reverb-drenched guitars and dense layers of sonic texture. The lead singer, Ceci Gomez, also showed impressive guitar skills and while there's nothing cooler than seeing a young female frontman play guitar like she's Thurston Moore, the vocal mixing was a complete mess (a recurring theme of the evening), and it was nigh impossible to hear what she was actually singing.
The Lonely Forest's set served as the glue of the evening between the sloppy (in a good way) noise rock of Beast Make Bomb and the expertly crafted prog and technical mastery of Portugal. the Man. They still had the "noise" elements of BMB, but their performance was significantly more polished and the overall production was much cleaner. While it was still very difficult to hear the Lonely Forest's lead singer, John Van Deusen, the band did their best to try and accommodate the venue's technical difficulties. Even with the problem's plaguing Music Hall, it was still obvious that the Lonely Forest had a rich and textured sound. At times, there was even an element of anthemic to their music (mostly on songs from last year's Arrows
) that shaked the purple haze (if only momentarily) out of the wasted eyes of the show's audience.
For anyone considering Portugal. the Man (at least on this particular tour), you should be warned that if you are prone to photosensitive seizures, their show is going to give you a worse epileptic fit than that one episode of Pokemon
. They have enough giant multi-colored balls of light and strobes that you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd walked in on a Flaming Lips show. Actually, all that John Gourley needed to do was hop in a giant bubble and crowd surf the audience with it for the Flaming Lips comparisons to be even more apt. If you took the neo-psychedelia of the Flaming Lips and paired it with Geddy Lee's countertenor and the extended instrumental solos/lyrical obliqueness of Rush, you'd have an idea of what Portugal. the Man sounds like. This doesn't seem like a recipe for music with broad appeal, but just by looking at the diverse demographic that made up the crowd (ranging from "bros," stoners, hipsters, and others), their music is so solid it can appeal to anyone.
Portugal the Man has recorded one studio album a year since 2006 (though one hasn't come out in 2012 yet and I don't think they've made any announcements for one yet) so to say that they had plenty of material to choose from would be an understatement. Whether it was classic tracks like "So American" or "Floating," there was something for every type of Portugal. the Man fan and there was almost nothing lost from the transition from studio to stage. In fact, with the addition of the extended jam sessions, their live performance seemed even more vivacious than the studio recordings.