NxNU 2018 featuring
Palm, Horse Jumper of Love, and Mauno
April 13, 2018 @ Afterhours
By: Spencer LaChance
This year’s spring concert from Northeastern’s beloved radio station did not disappoint. This was the second show under the name, North by Northeastern (NxNU), the first being last year’s show which featured Hoops, Mint Green, and Vagabon. This year, on Friday the 13th, Mauno was the first act to take the stage. Hailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia, the band features Nick Everett on vocals and guitar, Eliza Niemi on vocals and bass, Scott Boudreau on guitar, and Adam White on drums. Since they’re from Canada, I’ll give them a pass for thinking that we were Northwestern up until they arrived here. Anyhow, they were the perfect act to ease us into the night, as their intricate and colorful indie rock was performed with care and precision. ‘Or Just’ and ‘Helah’ were strong highlights of the night and can both be heard on the band’s latest album, Tuning. There were a lot of similarities between Mauno and the night’s headliner, Palm – the gender distribution, instrumental lineup, stage formation, and disregard for common song structure – which made them the ideal opener, so kudos to WRBB’s Events Director, Craig Short for making that pairing.
Next up was Horse Jumper of Love, a Boston trio comprised of Dimitri Giannopoulos on vocals and guitar, John Margaris on bass, and Jamie Vadala-Doran on drums. They brought the mood of the evening to a completely different place with their slow, dark rock music. I was constantly bobbing my head to Vadala-Doran’s drumming and mesmerized by Giannopoulos and Margaris’ vocal harmonies paired with their distortion-heavy instrumentation. They were playing the hits from their self-titled album, including highlights like ‘Spaceman’ and ‘Ugly Brunette.’ It was awesome to have a group like Horse Jumper on the lineup, as they were able to show us a different side of indie rock with some local Boston pride. They’re not a band you want to sleep on.
Then came the night’s headliner, Palm. I had been enjoying their music for the past few months and heard nothing but high praise about their live show, so I was amped to see them in Afterhours. They started their performance busting out of the gates with ‘Pearly,’ the opener to their latest album, Rock Island and easily my favorite song of theirs. It was perfect, both context-wise and performance-wise. The songs that they played that night sounded like the album versions to a T, and I can’t emphasize that enough. The band’s playing was air tight despite the wild and complex rhythms that define their sound. I cannot fathom how much time Palm puts into practicing; they didn’t even have to look at each other. Although the band’s set stayed very true to their studio material, it sounded so much better hearing the music live. There was a certain raw intensity and punch to it that you can’t hear on the recorded albums. Plus, Palm did switch it up a few times by going off on a few noisy, distorted tangents, which of course sounded great as well.
I was interested to see how they would pull off the sounds on Rock Island, since they often hardly sound like guitars. It seems like the answer is a crazy cocktail of effects, and while a lot of bands use effects, I’ve never heard a band use them quite like Palm does. Eve Alpert and Kasra Kurt’s guitars pierced the air like knives with their twangy, steel drum-esque timbre. At times, both guitarists would strum their guitars like crazy, creating an overwhelming wall of epic distortion. Plus, their vocals sounded out-of-this-world too with a washed out, heavily layered sound to them. On ‘Dog Milk,’ Alpert used her voice as an instrument/weapon, transforming her “dahs” into staticky screeches that complemented the rest of the music excellently, just like on the album. Another highlight was during ‘Composite,’ when Kurt got so into the music that he knocked his mic stand over and had to walk to the other side of the stage to use Alpert’s while still shredding on the guitar. Theoretically, he could have stopped playing for a second to pick it back up, but a band like Palm could never sacrifice a note of their musical masterpiece for something like that.
Overall, Palm was fantastic; I can’t wait to see what boundaries the group will push going forward. If you hear that any of these bands are coming to a town near you, do not miss your chance to see them… unless you hate indie rock. NxNU was the perfect way to spend my Friday night. Who needs Coachella anyway?