Painted Palms: worldly haze

by Irene Lo

This balmy Tuesday night I headed to the Biltmore Cabaret to catch the psychedelic cousins from Painted Palms. It was an illustrating evening, aided by openers Imperial Mammoth and Jay Arner, showcasing the promising upwards momentum Painted Palms was on.

Painted Palms is a band made for the internet to talk about, down to the aesthetic appeal of their name that’s like a neon flash to the Pavlovian-trained blogger eye to search out and remember. Christopher Prudhomme and Reese Donohue are cousins that make marvelous and noisy harmonies that twist and twirl the vocal and electronic production together to a dizzying effect, similar to other projects that are inspired to explore psychedelic rock through electronic tinkering such as Jagwar Ma or Roosevelt. They have the interest of those with a platform to express it, but what about their flesh-and-blood fans?

Vancouver’s Biltmore is an open-floor plan with booths pushed to the sides, the stage and the dance floor dominating the prime real estate like the pearl inside of an oyster. On popular nights, such as their monthly Ice Cream Social, it is an exciting space to be in, but their live shows can be hit-or-miss, wavering between a sold-out Dum Dum Girls event with everyone packed like sardines to the front to a rootsy band performing to a small, but devoted, audience.

Painted Palms played to a crowd that was engulfed by space. It was the type of night where you could see where every other person in the establishment was at any given time, and it was surprising that the crowd didn’t grow as the hours ticked on. Like the Jagwar Ma show that Quip covered in Vancouver last winter, the crowd was lean despite it being a set worth bobbing to.

Painted Palms came on a little before 11:30 p.m. and played tracks off their debut record, Forever, such as the airy “Here It Comes”, where Prudhomme’s voice was a soft blur, distinguishable still above the sublime din. Both Prudhomme and Donohue sported longer locks that suit them well, even when the longer locks fell across their foreheads. Poised performers, Prudhomme and Donohue were enchanting, swathed underneath the changing colours of the spotlight. It’s always strange to see that your town isn’t making a fuss about a band when close by cities such as Seattle or Portland are chomping at the bit. Painted Palms played a show that missed a mischievous party attitude, but was replaced by the boozy charm of an intimate space.

With exciting tour dates coming up such as a set at Treasure Island Musical Festival in their city, Painted Palms played a show that you could drop in a conversation: “I saw them when no one else did.”

At least in Vancouver.