On Thursday, July 11th, I had the pleasure of watching Palms perform live. The show was held at The Observatory in Costa Mesa, California. If you are unfamiliar with Palms, it is a supergroup; the band is basically Isis with Chino Moreno (deftones, Team Sleep, †††) on vocals. They formed in 2011, and put out a self-titled album on Ipecac Records last month. This was only their second time playing for an audience, so I felt privileged to be able to attend.
If you’re familiar with Isis’ later music (think Oceanic onward) and Chino Moreno’s softer music (such as deftones’ Lucky You and Digital Bath, Team Sleep, and †††), you already have a pretty good idea of what Palms sounds like. Supergroups are really hit or miss. Sometimes, the results are fantastic; think bands like Cream and Tomahawk. Sometimes, the results are so-so. Think Audioslave. (I like a few of their songs, but most are pretty forgettable. Chris Cornell’s vocal style never fit with the Rage Against the Machine music, in my opinion.) More often than not, the results are pretty disappointing. (I’m looking at you, Velvet Revolver.) I think supergroups succeed best when their members come from similar (but not identical) musical backgrounds and are heading in a similar direction, musically. In this aspect, I’d classify Palms as a success.
Chino Moreno is a good fit for Isis’ later stuff. As he’s gotten older and become a more mature musician, Chino has experimented with more ethereal soundscapes and has broken out of the nü-metal mold. (Deftones has evolved as a whole, too, and I for one think their music keeps getting better and better. Koi No Yokan was my favorite record from 2012.) Similarly, Isis started out as a pretty extreme sludge/doom metal band and evolved into a post-rock/metal band that wrote very airy and layered soundscapes (with screamed vocals). Instead of writing a review of Palms’ debut, I’ve included it, in full, at the end of this post. Click here to be taken to Grooveshark if you cannot see the player below.
I had never been to The Observatory before. (The name of the venue is almost too clever for its own good. I wonder how many concert-goers pick up on it.) The outside betrays the amount of space it has inside. The venue actually has two stages, and there were two concerts going on at the same time. I think the other was a rave. (I’m not basing this on any facts, but I’m guessing based on the fashions and ages of the people in the other line.) I was concerned that the music from one would affect the other, but that fear proved to be unfounded.
The opening band was an electronica band. (I didn’t catch their name, and can’t be bothered to research it.) A couple of their songs were pretty good, musically, but I didn’t care for their singer. He couldn’t carry a tune, his scream was off-putting, and it seemed that he would rather be a male stripper than a frontman. He kept doing an awkward dance that was more of a full-body gyration. Through the course of their set, he slowly took off his jacket and shirt. It was just very strange. If they had had a different lead singer, or no singer at all, I think I would have enjoyed the performance more than I did.
Palms then took the stage, to much hooting and hollering. (The venue had sold out.) They opened with the opening track on the album, Future Warrior. Immediately, the crowd was a sea of blue light as probably 20% of the attendees decided to film the performance with their smart phones. I made a comment to my friend Dave, who had come with me, that people should enjoy their lives as they happen. It’s nice to take a video now and then for posterity, but it’s insane to pay for a concert and then watch the whole thing through a tiny screen. It’s better to save your money and wait until someone uploads it to YouTube if you only care about seeing a tiny version. Just my two cents.
Palms played five of the six songs off their record, plus a cover of Swervedriver‘s Rave Down. The songs all were played technically well, except I think the instrumentation was off on the cover song. Chino’s singing was top notch. His screams seemed to fit the live songs better than on the record. Like with deftones, he played guitar on some of the more spacey songs and didn’t play on the songs requiring more passionate vocals. I prefer him when he’s not playing the guitar because he has such a good energy and presence to him when he’s able to use the full potential of the stage. At one point, he even took a self-portrait with some lucky fan’s iPhone.
The encore was the last song on the record, Antarctic Handshake. Quite a few people had left before the encore. I guess they figured Palms had played all of their songs and were done. Oops. It’s a great closer to the album, and a great closer to the performance. I think Palms is still in the “great potential” stage, but the live show is very enjoyable and the first record is solid. I’m excited to see what they do next.
Opening act: ★★ ½ out of 5
Palms: ★★★★ out of 5
Other Concert Reviews
More Chino Moreno stuff on this website
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