Unknown Mortal Orchestra @ Bodega, Wellington 20 July 2013
Portland based, lo-fi psychedelic rock trio Unknown Mortal Orchestra have come along way in a very short time. The band – led by ex Mint Chick and native New Zealander Ruben Nielson – have gone from sharing mysterious homemade demos on the internet to selling out shows in Europe and America in little over three years.
Their gig at Bodega in Wellington on 20 July illustrated perfectly why the band has enjoyed such a meteoric rise. Put simply, UMO are a thrilling live act that already boast an impressive repertoire of songs.
Picking almost equally from their excellent self-titled début and even better follow up II, UMO’s fuzzy, psychedelic pop gems and extended jams thrill the raucous Wellington crowd who have packed tightly into the small arena.
First though, the all female punk trio Las Tetas provide an impressive warm up act for the slowly filling venue. The Auckland band’s abrasive yet hypnotically melodic songs resemble Surfer Rosa-era Pixies mixed with the propulsive rhythms of post-rock heroes Slint. A few microphone problems aside, they do themselves no harm at all in front of the boisterous capital crowd.
About 30 minutes or less after Las Tetas exited the stage and it was time for the main event. Arriving onstage amid great fanfare, Ruben Nielson and company aren’t here to disappoint on their triumphant homecoming tour. Mixing up the set expertly, the band sandwich raucous rockers like ‘One At A Time’ alongside the more soulful and heartfelt songs like ‘From The Sun’ and ‘So Good At Being In Trouble,’ which have practically everyone present singing along in unison.
Nielson parades the stage with effortless cool, taking opportune moments to twiddle effects knobs and playfully lunge forward with his guitar whilst playing another intricate solo.
A triumphant encore featuring fan favourites such as the irrepressible ‘Nerve Damage’ and ‘Ffunny Friends’ and a cover of Can’s classic Ege Bamyasi hit ‘Vitamin C’ has everyone longing for much more.
Tonight it is easy to see why the likes of Lou Barlow, Wayne Coyne and Ed Droste have been queueing up to profess their love of UMO. There is little doubt they are one of the best new live acts it is possible to see right now. Go and see them up close and personal before they inevitably (and deservedly) graduate onto the larger venues.