Live Review: Warpaint @ Neumos 3/20


photos by Philip LaRose

On Sunday March 20 I headed over to Neumos to see Warpaint, with Family Band and PVT opening. I first saw Warpaint back in October 2009 opening for School of Seven Bells, and enjoyed them enough to pick up their EP Exquisite Corpse. By the end of 2010, I’d also bought their debut full-length album The Fool, which I liked a lot. So I was definitely interested in seeing them perform again.

Still, for some reason I hadn’t planned on attending this concert, and going was a last-minute impromptu decision. As a result, I missed the opening act, Family Band, entirely. I have a couple rules about going to shows, one of which is, “It’s always worthwhile to catch the opening act.” (The other is, “It’s always the right decision to go to the show.”) Even if the band is terrible—which in my experience is extremely rare—at least I’ve learned that, and more often than not I’ve discovered some great bands I’d never heard of simply by showing up for the whole show. So I regretted missing out on that experience of discovery. Sorry, Family Band, I’ll catch you next time.


And walking in about 15 minutes into PVT’s set further demonstrated the value of my rule, as my jaw immediately dropped in amazement. They were playing some hard-edged electronic post-punk that was hard to pin down but sounded fantastic. It was a bit TV on the Radio, a bit Battles, a bit David Sylvian and Robert Fripp, and all pretty awesome. The songs were a mix between pure instrumentals and tunes with vocals; the vocals in particular suggested the David Sylvian comparison. I again regretted that I hadn’t shown up in time to catch PVT from the start, but was so glad that I’d decided to go and caught them at all. After the show, I bought their current album, Church with No Magic, and I’ll be looking for more from them.


Warpaint seem like a young band: to look at the band members, you might think they were a teen girl pop band, and again they’re touring behind their debut album The Fool released just six months ago, which makes them seem new. However, they actually formed back in 2004, so they’ve had time to develop, and consequently they played a really solid set of music, from the multi-part vocals to the ringing guitars, firm bass, and tight drums. Although the vocals were mostly crooned low, they were quite capable of belting out the lyrics as appropriate. Warpaint’s songs were dark, intense, and moody, in the veins of psychedelic and art rock, and would not be out of place with goth either, making them seem that much more surprisingly mature in contrast to their apparent youth.


But despite their serious sound, the band was clearly enjoying themselves, playing impromptu jams between a couple songs, and the lead singer was laughing while doing Björk-like yelps in the song “Composure”. They played the breakout single “Undertow” about halfway through the set; it was undoubtedly the catchy song that everyone in the audience knew, and hopefully it’ll get people to listen to the album, which rewards more attention. That said, they’ve clearly already gained a lot of attention, as they had a really full crowd on the floor and in the balcony too for the whole show, on a Sunday night no less. I could see Warpaint faced with the danger of repeating themselves and fading off into obscurity, but they’ve clearly got the talent to find creative ways to experiment with styles and expand their sound while staying true to themselves (rather like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club has, for instance). Warpaint played a really powerful set that made me very very happy I’d decided to go, and I’m looking forward to hearing what’s next for them.


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