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Review + Photos | Polica + Night Moves @ Wonder Ballroom (PDX)


Photos by inger klekacz

[T]wo Minneapolis bands swept through Portland the other night, packing the Wonder Ballroom and sending us back out to combat the gloomy weather with an army of groovy jams. First up were Night Moves; a trio of curly-haired boys (and the odd flat-haired blonde man) that pooled influences from 70’s soft rock titans like Fleetwood Mac and Chicago to the indie and psych-folk of Band of Horses and Devendra Banhart. They pounded out rich layers of instrumentation and familiar chord progressions with a natural energy and cool happiness that seemed to affect everyone in eye-shot. There was even element of country, most obviously from their multi-instrumentalist‘s slide guitar. John Pelant’s vocals stretched from something reminiscent of Prince’s supernatural falsettos, to the tortured echoes of a lonesome cowboy (an image nicely enhanced by the cool vintage horse blouse he wore for the show). Sadly, the subtler elements of his vocals (words, texture) were rendered undetectable by aforementioned layers of instrumentation.

With only one album, their 2012 debut re-release Colored Emotions, to pull selections from, the range of style was narrow, which made for a relatively monotone performance. However, the litter of doting fans in the audience would probably bitterly disagree with my assessment. Hearing their album – titled Colored Emotions; a thoroughly enjoyable, memorable, and divinely sexy album with all its individual elements nicely arranged, enough times to sing and sway along was likely what it took to fully appreciate Night Moves in real-time.

Like their friends in Night Moves, Polica released their debut album, Give You the Ghost (a break-up album, albeit a smart and penetrating one) in early 2012. And this tour, though it seems about time, does not celebrate an album release. But, it does indicate the fruition of new songs, as evidenced by the band performing two unrecorded tracks, “Trippin’” and “Smug.” Front-woman Channy Leaneagh even cheerfully commented on finally being able to wander from the old material. No word on whether the new gems will be produced with former collaborator, Ryan Olson from Gayngs, but the live versions at least aren’t a major departure from the prior material. Perhaps the change will lie in Leaneagh’s lyrics. Give You the Ghost was characterized by the haunting voice of a woman who was clearly hurting and grasping for strength. And now, the same voice seems to have taken flight; it dances and smiles and heaves as if from a seasoned R&B queen.

Between those songs, in the moments where her air of hypnotization was broken, a boisterous voice requested, “More bass!” to which Leaneagh replied, appropriately, with a blushing, tight-smiled apology. It was hard to imagine more bass. The two drummers situated behind her were perhaps the most impressive to see and hear, providing the ethereal vocals with a robust backbone of rhythm.

It was refreshing to see Leaneagh’s commanding performance belie her feather-like frame and baby-doll features while still exhibiting balance in her movements; switching from wild, impassioned gestures to soft, patient sways. Her style of “gypsy-dancing” was mirrored off the stage; people with floating arms, dips, twirls, and closed-eyed expressions of quiet euphoria broke up the sober stares going on otherwise. But Polica fans aren’t just a bunch of twirling hippies; they are diverse, ranging from flat-billed, basketball jersey clad hip-hop fans to silver-haired couples hip enough to keep a finger on current music trends. Their wide audience has ensured Polica’s past, and continued, success. And with the band’s recent tour, new material that seems to stick with the signature loops and heavy use of auto-tune, and a new and welcome muse of time and triumph, we can only expect fewer tears and more dancing from our Minneapolis friends.



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