Words and photos by Alex Brokowski
Update: This post as been updated to state that this set was not Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s first US performance but in reference to musical influence Klaus Nomi’s first US performance in 1978.
On Friday, February 19th, New York City natives and travelers alike gathered at Irving Plaza to experience Unknown Mortal Orchestra, live in concert. Openers Lower Dens, consisting of lead singer Jana Hunter alongside Geoff Graham, Nate Nelson, and Walker Teret, performed a captivating and warm set to bring the mood right where it deserved to be. Casually dressed Hunter performed songs from the band’s most recent album, Escape From Evil – one notable crowd pleaser was ‘To Die in L.A.‘. With two of four band members in tow for the performance (Hunter and drummer Nelson), the set was intimate and allowed for proper introspection within the concert experience. Transformations of echoing guitar strums and Hunter’s haunting voice wove a cool dynamic into the set, and despite electric beats filling the venue throughout, the band’s bold choice to close with an a capella vocalization sent chills all across the sold out space.
After the proper opening set from Lower Dens, Unknown Mortal Orchestra took to the stage. The band expressed a recollection to the audience – Irving Plaza held the band’s inspiration, Klaus Nomi’s first US performance back in 1978. It was also lead singer Ruban Nielson’s birthday, and yes, the entire crowd joined in harmony to wish him well. With introductions out of the way, the band jumped into an excellent and entertaining set. A sweet groove rung throughout the venue as the band performed tracks from their full-length releases II (2013) and Multi-Love (2015), amongst other catalog selections. Things got especially jazzy as the band allowed time throughout for solos, hyping the audience as well as the musicians. The upbeat lo-fi feel that Unknown Mortal Orchestra has become known for had the tone set right for the evening, and there’s no doubt that the crowd enjoyed every second.
Overall, the evening consisted of two powerful acts with particularly strong vocalists hooking in the audience with talent and personal flare. With their use of voices and instruments to create a unique space and experience, this night was not one to miss.
For more information on either of the acts from the show, check them out online:
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
For continued event coverage, music reviews, and more, stay tuned to WHUS 91.7 FM and whus.org.