The stage of Allston’s Brighton Music Hall sat in an eclectic mix of lights and sound. The walls of the old Brighton Avenue building welcomed a sold-out commotion of fans Tuesday, June 2, for the New Zealand-formed, Portland, Oregon-based group Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Frontman Ruban Nielson, in a five-paneled cap and black-tee get-up, ensconced himself upon the edge of the platform. His kiwi-land ease and accent hummed from the end of the microphone as he commanded his onlookers to parade their left hand from side to side; swiftly, yet coordinately to the beat of the music.
Installations that looked closer to the satellites that used to sit on the roof of our families’s homes lined the back wall of the stage: menacing until…
… Unknown Mortal Orchestra took to their instruments. A string of melodies saturated the hall and culminated in free-form jazz and psychedelic rock. The orbs looming from the back of the stage took note and ignited in hues of red, green, and yellow. Their rims glistened with tiny pearls ablaze, perfectly accenting the lustrous sonance of the band.
Nielson’s wooden prayer beads hung around his neck, like a means to musical enlightenment. Something spiritual erupted from the stylings on stage — something very Brian Eno meets Stevie Wonder-esque. And, as some new form of Tuesday-evening worship ensued, Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Boston congregation went wild.
Couples floated together in not-so stereotypical ways, to music that is not so stereo-typically couply. Heavy bass, and opulent drums rung through flawless guitar riffs. “Madi, I must spin you”, said my friend Jake. “All I’ve ever wanted is to be spun,” I replied. I raised my arm, held my can of beer close, closed my eyes, and felt the warm energy of the room swirl around me; Jake and I burst out laughing. But, apparently the spin, or twirl, perhaps? became the move of the night; they broke out amongst the dance floor after us.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra played through a nearly 90-minute set with a mix of their old and new songs. However, in varying parts of the night, members broke out into individual solos that lasted several minutes. At one point, the drummer, Riley Geare, gushed out a slew of bass and kick drums: symbols, and snares; tom toms and such. His fellow members squatted low to floor, heads down as Geare, treaded on, flawlessly.
Near the end of the performance, Unknown Mortal Orchestra finally imparted upon us their 2010 break-out hit “Ffunny Ffrends.” The ever enthusiastic crowd cheered. Nielson, mouth close to microphone sang in, with a muted dissonance. The edges of the words blurred at the ends; but, one thing came through: “I rely all of my life, all of my life, on my funny friends…”