Unknown Mortal Orchestra / Foxygen Media Club, Vancouver, BC, March 23

Unknown Mortal Orchestra / Foxygen Media Club, Vancouver, BC, March 23
Photo: Steve Louie
The style of California's Foxygen is clearly well informed. They can blast through all manner of '60s psych rock at will, framed in the fast and loose, distorted, lo-fi garage sensibilities employed by the likes of Ty Segall and White Fence. While the band, founded by singer Sam France and guitarist Jonathan Rado, don't yet have the chops to match Segall, they brought a certain Rolling Stones-ish Primal Scream mayhem to their set this evening. They have the attitude to pull off their unhinged sound, almost working the crowd to a mosh at points.

France came off like a mix of Anton Newcombe and Mick Jagger. Wearing a fur coat and processing his voice, he made crazy eyes as he pointed to random people in the crowd and went on a couple of confusing tirades between songs. His banter rubbed people in different directions, discussing how the digital media is not real, like a young Conor Oberst, and taking the usually playful "you guys are a million times cooler than Seattle" routine to a darker "I fucking hate Seattle" place, which was reminiscent of Chris Farley's "kill whitey" scene from Black Sheep. It was apparently France's birthday, so that may have fuelled the fire somewhat, but he's probably just like that, and power to him for the gusto.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra was clearly the headliner this evening. Consisting of principal songwriter and guitarist Ruban Nielson with the rhythm section of bassist Jake Portrait and drummer Riley Geare, the Kiwi-via-Portland power trio are an example of potential realized. While more lo-fi and low-key on record, in this live setting, their smooth psych sound came off like a more rocking and reverb-laden version of the Shins, if the Shins had gone in a more Elephant 6 direction from their debut onward.

These guys know how to put a set together. Where Foxygen antagonized the crowd somewhat during their extended breaks, when Geare needed a few minutes to recalibrate a snare, Nielson got the crowd to join in syncopated clapping while he jammed for a few minutes. As the repair was completed, Nielson launched the group into "No Need for a Leader" from their recent album II as if on cue. In this, Nielson turned what would be a mild disaster for most bands into a perfect moment of tension and release.

Working his trademark waterlogged guitar tone, Nielson slayed on guitar, and his partners in crime never let him down. At one point, while Nielson tweaked a squeaky delay loop, Geare let loose a drum solo of Garth Algar proportions, which eventually led straight into "Strangers Are Strange" from their eponymous debut, and the crowd roared with satisfaction. Everything was bigger and ballsier than on record, perfectly paced and presented.