UMO

The first time I saw Unknown Mortal Orchestra was in 2011, when the New Zealand-via-Portland group opened up for (then) buzz-band Yuck at The Independent. As soon as UMO took the stage, the lights went completely dark — you could barely see in front of your face, let alone catch a glimpse of the performing act. It was a disconcerting experience — I kept bumping into people, and almost felt seasick at one point. (Funny aside — earlier this year, I interviewed Julien Ehrlich of Whitney, the former drummer for UMO. He told me that current bandmate Max Kakacek attended one of UMO’s blacked-out shows and ended up puking all over himself because he was so freaked out by the dimly-lit gig.)

Despite the unnerving atmosphere that night in 2011, I was completely transfixed by that show. UMO’s slinky, down-tempo music was challenging, yet engaging — a strange collection of syncopated, jittery tunes that had real rhythm and swing. Bleating through a heavily-filtered microphone, Ruban Nielson sounded robotic and distant, like a strange psychedelic alien who decided to visit Earth because he loved our terrestrial funk tunes. He had a thousand foot pedals, each one producing a variation of the band’s eerie, tinny guitar melodies. It was weird and unique and incredible. Even though I went to that show to see Yuck, I left singing to myself “I rely...all of my life...all of my life...on my Ffunny Ffrends.”

At the end of this month, UMO will make a return visit to that memorable scene, when the band plays two shows at The Independent, including an all-you-can drink bash for New Year’s Eve. The group — now a super-tight four-piece — is still touring in support of 2015’s excellent release, Multi-Love. Once a withdrawn performer, Nielson is an imminently engaged, confident frontman. When the band opened for Tame Impala at the Greek Theater in September, Neilson prowled all over the stage, even scaling up some of the lighting fixtures at one point. He also rocked the sweetest contemporary MC Hammer pants I’d seen in a while.

Tickets are still available for both nights. The show on Friday, December 30 is $30, and the December 31 show will run you $99, but, like I mentioned earlier, that includes an open bar all night. New Year’s Eve can be a huge pain in the ass, especially if you end up at an overpriced, super-crowded club that’s blasting the worst kind of EDM. The UMO show will be literally the exact opposite of that experience. Good people, laid-back setting, awesome tunes. Don’t miss out.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra Morgan Delt, Rocky Tinder DJ
The Independent
December 30, 2016
9pm, $30 (21+)

Unknown Mortal Orchestra Morgan Delt, Rocky Tinder DJ
The Independent
December 30, 2016
9pm, $99 (21+)

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