PALM: Big names help pay bills, but Neon Reverb’s core mission has always been exposing Las Vegans to rising acts, and vice versa. As veteran Reverb attendees can attest, the fest has long been a great way to discover new favorites, if not connect with entirely unfamiliar musical styles.
Judging from the buzz following Reverb’s fourth and final night, Palm—a four-piece band based in Philadelphia—scored big on both counts. Landing somewhere between late-’70s No Wave and the more experimental side of Dirty Projectors, the quartet used clanging instrumentation and unpredictable time signature to challenge the conventions of “pleasant” rock composition, while still charming the large crowd gathered ’round the Bunkhouse’s outdoor stage.
Even Palm’s between-song banter felt simultaneously off-kilter and endearing. “We have some shirts for sale, if you want to follow us to our van to acquire them,” guitarist/vocalist Eve Alpert announced near the end of the set. I did, and I did.
LVL UP Sunday’s de-facto headliner—in the midst of a U.S. tour with Palm—delivered a blissful wall of guitar noise that relented only when the foursome departed for its next gig in New Mexico. Opening with “Annie’s a Witch” from 2014’s Hoodwink’d and closing with “Hidden Driver” from last year’s Return to Love, the Brooklyn-based band filled its time with cuts from those hook-filled and fuzzed-out LPs.
Guitarists Dave Benton and Mike Caridi and bassist Nick Corbo traded lead turns on the mic, with Benton’s quasi-fragile vocals contrasting best with the ear-blasting assault of numbers like “The Closing Door.” Some of the set’s most powerful moments involved no words at all, like the twin-guitar-duel that closed out “Pain” and the ultra-heavy intro to “Five Men on the Ridge.” Fans of guitar-focused, ’90s indie rock have good reason to be excited by the recent ascension of LVL UP.
ON THE HOMEFRONT: If the festival’s Vegas representation was dominated by well-established acts over the first three nights—Mercy Music, Black Camaro, The Big Friendly Corporation, Same Sex Mary—Sunday’s programming saw a torch of sorts being passed, to local bands playing Reverb for the very first time.
A couple of them, Kurumpaw and We Are Pancakes, struggled to overcome challenges—the outdoor stage’s uncooperative sound system for the former, the absence of a key member for the latter—but both ultimately passed the test, with Kurumpaw’s blithe, surfy tunes coming together toward the end of the set, and Pancakes turning the crowd’s ear with a cover of Ginuwine’s My Pony” and a guest appearance from rapper Hassan.
Performing toward the end of a weekend filled with psychedelic intensity from the likes of JJUUJJUU and Night Beats, Vegas psych-rock newcomers The Acid Sisters showed sonic promise, but their songwriting will need further seasoning to stand out in that sort of heavy company.
Indigo Kidd, meanwhile, might be ready to rule the local scene right now, if Sunday’s set is any indication. The trio, which relocated here from Washington State last year, seemed at ease on the Bunkhouse’s main stage in front of a sizable crowd. Indigo Kidd’s tunes build a bridge between post-punk and pop-punk—weighty doesn’t have to mean overserious—which should help the band continue to grow its fanbase. Look for a full-length album, produced by Hidden Levels’ frontman Adam Grill, sometime soon.
Reverb’s closing act, Dark Black, played the fest’s final night last year, too, but considering how much the foursome’s sound has solidified since then, it barely seems like the same band. On Sunday, Dillon Shines’ and Matt Frantom’s vocals were presented with far more confidence, the overall intensity of the music felt heightened and new songs suggested songwriting continues to advance as well. A fitting choice to cap it all off.