Live Review: Palm @ First Unitarian Church 3/26

Old Maybe opened the night with a frantic, off-kilter set of rhythm-based songs, each no more than two minutes. They were hard to follow between their sharp twists and turns in tempo, and often confrontational vocals. Nina Ryser’s drums were unpredictable, making huge use of the relatively small space. It’s not hard to see the similarities between this and her other project Palberta. It felt an appropriate entrance for the show, almost like decoupling the audience from the outside.

The Spirit of the Beehive followed, their set more guitar and synth driven, providing hazy, dreamy effects that drew the audience in. An atmosphere could be felt while they played, not pausing long between songs, each of the members seemingly lost in their own world, yet perfectly in tune with each other.

Palm began with “Pearly,” the opener off of their newest LP, Rock Island. The song is much more palpable live, the percussion striking with startling clarity. Palm has the unique ability of being able to play music in such a way that every time one hears it, it feels like the first time again, and their live set presents this in a whole new way. The songs have a distinct punch, the transitions between tempos executed in a way that only comes with sheer practice and performance.

By the time they arrived at “Walkie Talkie,” the crowd had warmed up and got into the impossible grooves of Palm’s music. Guitarist and vocalist Eve Alpert grinned while playing almost mathematically precise arpeggios, stark next to Kasra Kurt’s fuzzier strumming. Strange sounds came from drummer Hugo Stanley, as he was using everything from steel drums to the vibraslap all condensed into his sample pad, expertly used to produce pop-y rhythms that turned on a dime, compressing and expanding throughout the night. “Color Code” showed this off best, Stanley’s percussion coming across like language, jumping in unexpected ways then effortlessly flowing together.

“Composite” was my favorite to see live, a bouncy, beachy song that devolves after a few minutes into a reconstruction of the themes of the beginning, beats copy and pasted all over Alperts dreamy vocals. Imagine Alex G does the Beach Boys. It was amazing to see the crowd sway to this chill surf-like intro then react to the heavier exit, extended for performance. Though Palm’s website emphasizes their live performance as entirely different from studio, I found their live interpretations of their music to be incredibly faithful to the album, with their most characteristic sounds reproduced authentically. Their energy was amazing as well, combining both audience appeal and on-stage chemistry. They interact in a way that feels natural, while their music is anything but. It’s like they’re the four people in the world that speak the same language, and they somehow managed to find each other while everyone else listens on in magnificent wonder. They closed out on “Two Toes,” but were quickly called back for an encore of “Ankles”.

Palm makes jagged, idiosyncratic music that shifts from frenetic to comforting in an instant, hiccuping and stuttering one second and swaying the next. Their live performance was nothing less than perfect, and I can’t wait to see them again. “Someday, this will all make sense” sings Kurt on “Two Toes”. I personally hope it never does.

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