When a crowd is truly, ruthlessly in love with the band they are about to see, you can tell from the moment they walk in the room. You don’t see it often, but when it happens, it’s a spectacle that you wouldn’t trade the world for. Friday night’s show with Warpaint at Neumos had one of those crowds. The show had been sold out for weeks on end before the doors opened. Excitable groups all packed the front of the stage an hour before music started – some of them didn’t talk about anything but Warpaint the whole time. Some branched out into Warpaint’s influences, while others chose to keep their excitement to themselves, but one thing was for sure: this crowd was completely taken by Warpaint, and they had been waiting for tonight for a long time coming.
It goes without saying, but all of their excitement was entirely justified – in a stellar hour and a half set, Warpaint tore the roof off of Neumos and left everyone devastated. Heavy on their new, eponymous record, out now on Rough Trade, and revisiting some classics from The Fool and Exquisite Corpse, Warpaint did their thing in stellar fashion. Together with James Supercave, Warpaint gave the sold out crowd the high art Friday night they’d been craving for months.
James Supercave is a relatively new face on the LA indie pop scene, but he’s started making waves quickly. His songwriting blends an uncountable array on influences from soul to experimental electronica to straightforward singer-songwriter indie rock and everything in between. His EP, The Afternoon, came out in March of this year and shows of Supercave’s eclectic taste in shimmering display. Tonight, Supercave’s full band exposition kept the crowd engaged throughout his set. After thanking Warpaint extensively for the excellent opportunity to spread their fanbase, James Supercave exited and cleared the stage for Warpaint to bring the magic.
At the downbeat of Warpaint set opener “Hi”, the crowd was in a trance. Jenny Lee Lindberg started in on the bassline, while Theresa Wayman offered some spacious, atmospheric vocal toppings. Then, when Stella Mozgawa entered on the drums and Emily Kokal threw in some synth pad layering, it was a done deal. Warpaint have such an organic sound and style to their builds that it’s almost like the effort all goes into pulling a ghost out of thin air and then watching it move around the stage for six minutes before the next one. And once the six or so (sometimes more like thirteen) minutes are over, it’s almost a shame to watch one song come to a close because the grooves that Warpaint put together could individually go on for hours. Some people say Warpaint is a jam band – I think that’s an unfair labeling solely because jam bands tend to play songs far too long. Warpaint has the opposite problem – their songs are six minutes to start with, and the crowd wishes they were more like twenty. But to fit thirteen songs into 90 minutes, there has to be some kind of sacrifice in there. But Warpaint’s set was a perfect black magic mixture – far too much to walk away empty handed, but still leaving the crowd begging for more.
The setlist was excellent. Plenty of the new record made the cut including “Biggie”, “Feeling Alright”, and the excellent lead single “Love Is To Die”. Kokal and Wayman traded off on the lead vocals regularly, each bringing their own unique sensibility to the plate when it was time. But the stage was always livid with energy. Wayman’s guitar chops are nothing to scoff at, and Lindberg’s bass lines make up some of the best modern hooks you will hear. These four ladies moved like one well-oiled machine, all playing off each other’s energy with pristine grace. Like four friends in a race, the lead passes around from one to another, with a subtle nod or a turn of the head, and then one instrument just barely creeps out in front of another. Warpaint could play back and forth like this for hours. Only really on main set closer “Disco//very” did they let the horses loose for a full fledged dance monster.
Kokal returned to the stage for the encore alone to play an incredibly beautiful solo rendition of “Billie Holiday” from Exquisite Corpse. After that, the rest of the band piled on to close with fifteen straight minutes jam brilliance before saying good night. Warpaint wowed the crowd to a standstill and sent everyone home with wide smiles and swirling, colorful dreams. Once the lights went up, the crowd got a better look at the band’s backing canvas – a layered silhouette like the one seen on the Warpaint cover, with wild strands of hair flying this way and that. A mysterious silhouette with a sensual sensibility and an echoing groove – perhaps there is no better way to describe Warpaint and their incredible music.