“My first concert? The Beatles,” said the radio-industry professional next to me in the crowd, who gave me his business card a few minutes ago, before turning to talk to his grey-haired buddies.
I mention this because my first concert was Smash Mouth, when a young 8-year-old me knew all the words to “All Star” (and still do now). Depending on your evaluation of Smash Mouth’s contributions to modern music, I may or may not be qualified to review last Thursday’s Unknown Mortal Orchestra/Foxygen show at Lincoln Hall. But regardless of concert pedigree, UMO and Foxygen rocked the house with space jams (yes, I’m still trying to reclaim that phrase from the movie) and psych rock their phaser pedals echoing long after.
Foxygen, still riding the wave of good press from their breakout album “We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic,” powered through some technical issues in their set to deliver a wallop of aggressive, punky psych. Sam France, a Beck and Mick Jagger-esque ragamuffin you wouldn’t want your offspring to date, channeled an animatronic Chuck E. Cheese machine during “San Francisco,” and joked about his “middle school booty” when someone complimented his, well, booty. Though the sound issues visibly frustrated France – he prefaced set closer “Oh No” with “This is gonna sound like complete sh*t” (and it did not, quite the contrary) – he’s quickly adapting to his responsibilities as a loose, eccentrically sexy frontman, his freakout at SXSW notwithstanding (http://pitchfork.com/news/49930-sxsw-foxygen-go-off-the-rails/). The rest of the band isn’t anything to scoff at, either: guitarist Jonathan Rado’s quick and catchy hooks kept every song danceable, even if the rather stiff crowd didn’t feel like it.
UMO, meanwhile, is a bit like the Two-Face girlfriend in the classic Seinfeld episode. On the record, UMO is a restrained rock outfit that’s more concerned with atmosphere and mood than rocking’ tunes, and the best tracks off their self-titled debut combined both. But live, UMO is a ferocious rock monster that can’t resist ending each song with a pulsing guitar solo. Such was the case with second album standout “So Good at Being in Trouble,” which paired frontman Ruban Nielson’s vocal gymnastics in the chorus with an incredible ending jam. Nielson and his gang didn’t do anything out of the ordinary – no frustrations or jokes for them – but they shattered the minds of those who still thought the band was just slow-paced space rock. They hardly needed a cover of Jay Reatard’s “My Shadow” to prove that, and by the time they played it during the encore, it was clear that there’s much more to this Oregon/New Zealand band that what’s on the records.
“What a great show!” the radio industry guy raved afterward. I agreed. UMO and Foxygen may be far from the Beatles, but you didn’t need a history lesson to know that – even if you started your concert education with Smash Mouth.