(Originally written for Relix.com1)
The Ogden Theatre
It used to be that high-test psychedelic rock shows were reserved for so-called off-broadway venues. In search of true psych grit, you’d find yourself in an abandoned warehouse on the outskirts or the house of some guy named Tony who lives out by the graveyard near the highway. Odds are, you and all 20 of the other dudes at the packed house were in bands of your own. Headliners manned the liquid light show for the openers or tossed them rounds between songs.
This scene still exists in the Austins and Brooklyns of the world. But this brand of psych has found its way onto the marquees since the 13th Floor Elevators, and has enjoyed a full-blown renaissance in the last decade or so. At the top of the heap sits Tame Impala, who played Denver’s Ogden Theatre on a cool Sunday night in late October.
After an explosive set from Austin’s White Denim, who’ll rightfully headline a national tour of their own in the coming months, lab-coated technicians scrambled to set up for Tame Impala. Even after the band took the stage, the crew had work to do. Stage left, two crew members hunched over a host of electronics rigged up for the night’s visual display. Show opener “Enders Toi” cued the duo to click and crank on their rig, generating a digital liquid light show of sorts. Multi-colored swirls spiraled up and grew into bright discs, and a wave of pot smoke from the bobbing crowd rose to meet it.
Despite the preponderance of reverb (which garbled nearly all of frontman Kevin Parker’s attempts at between-song banter), Tame Impala’s set was crisp as you could ask for. Even sweaty numbers like “Music To Walk Home By” and “Apocalypse Dreams” rang through in the back wall of theatre. Good thing, too: it soon became the only space available in the the sold-out venue. Even in the back, the fans were no less die-hard. “I could probably give a 45 minute dissertation on this,” said one show-goer during the band’s most classic psych tune, “Solitude is Bliss.”
For their encore, the band trotted out “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards,” the cooly rhythmic anthem from their newest release, “Lonerism.” Tame Impala are as successful of a traditional psych rock band as you’ll hear today, but as the crowd realized this slow-and-low encore as their favorite, it became clear the band hadn’t sacrificed any of the oddity they stamped their name on when they started out in Perth. Instead, people have met them halfway. For many, this is popular music, which can only mean one thing: the world is much more psychedelic than we give it credit for. And that’s never more evident than when listening to Tame Impala.