Painted Palms and friends at the Empty Bottle

by Ashley Kolpak

Friday night, I ventured out to the Ukrainian Village neighborhood to catch Painted Palm’s set at the Empty Bottle. This venue is the very definition of laid-back and dare I say, hipster. Upon walking in, concert-goers are greeted by a pool table and an assortment of arcade games. Slinking back against the bar, the crowd was a little thin, but the general atmosphere was very relaxed and non-descript. It turns out I showed up a bit early – 9:00.

The first band, Airiel, graced the stage at 10. Even so, as the crowd grew, this small venue retained its quaint, slightly grimy, underground quality. The sheer size of the stage – I would equate it to the size of a raised platform of a high school theater, maybe even smaller – added to the overall intimate, easygoing feeling of the concert.

Each band set up its own gear, a true testament to the indie venue. Airiel opened the evening’s shows, with loud, moody guitars and plenty of reverb. The vocals were strong and the jeans were skinny. The band is local and received a nice welcome from the crowd. The music bridged an interesting gap between a loud, at times screechy, emo-ish sound and beautiful, layered melodies everyone could groove a bit to. The lead singer’s foppish, Flock of Seagulls-inspired hairdo only added to their appeal.

Next up was Saint Pepsi, aka Ryan DeRobertis. Attired in a Painted Palms merch tee, he unassumingly took the stage and let loose a ridiculously engaging and fun EDM set. He played around with pop and disco tracks in imaginative ways that got the indie/hipster crowd breaking out in their best dance moves. He capped off his gleeful set (he smiled brightly and mouthed lyrics the whole time, in the most endearing way) with a dramatic, “let the bass drop” edit of “Call Me Maybe.” The highlight of the set was standing behind a group of five or six frat-tastic bros who just let it go on the dance floor the entire 45 minute set. When one of them tied his flannel shirt around his shirt for maximum dancing ability, I knew he meant business.

Painted Palms took the stage as the clock neared midnight. Band members (and cousins) Christopher Prudhomme and Reese Donohue quietly took the stage and launched into their groovy, melodious set. The boys and their drummer exuded a definite look: a little ’80s, complete with acid jeans and a jacket any Miami Vice fan would covet. Another interesting comparison came to mind as the girl next to me bellowed, “He looks like weird Al!” referring to Donohue. The band’s very specific look carried over into the general vibe of the concert. Decidedly hip and surprisingly upbeat, the show featured the sound that sets Painted Palms apart: funky pop tracks, flecked with beachy-keen influences, catchy choruses and hippy-dippy flourishes. A serious, yet sincere look possessed Prudhomme and he sang out his hauntingly cool tunes. A set favorite was “Forever,” one of the band’s newer singles.

Painted Palm’s San Francisco background shined through – the collection of psychedelic, sun-soaked melodies proved hypnotic in the context of pint-sized venue. Their energized and passionate demeanor remained even as songs drifted out into meandering interludes at the end of their tunes. With Donohue continually bouncing back and forth to the beat on his keyboard, Prudhomme singing sweetly and a drummer from Chicago rocking out, this offbeat show brimmed with groovy charm. Also, the Empty Bottle is an unpretentious indie dance hall that’s more than worth the trip.