Philadelphia band Palm performed something of a homecoming show on Wednesday, November 30th at Music Hall of Williamsburg. I say ‘of sorts,’ because while most of the members have decamped in Philadelphia, I first got to know them (read, became obsessed with the group) while they were still living in NYC and performing at venues including Palisades, Shea Stadium, and Market Hotel.
The band, made up of Eve Alpert, Kasra Kurt, Gerasimos Livitsanos, and Hugo Stanley has outlived most of the DIY venues where they initially cut their teeth, and while Palm always has been (and I expect always will be), a band ahead of their time, that time seems to be at hand. Their latest record, Nicks and Grazes, was released in October of this year via Saddle Creek Records and received glowing reviews.
In a way, Palm teaches you how to listen to music for the first time, and while they are ostensibly a rock act, in that they use (heavily modified at times) rock and roll instrumentation, their music defies the genre’s usual tropes. Alpert and Kurt’s densely layered and dueling guitars and vocals, Stanley’s immovable and syncopated drum patterns coming in and out of time with Livitsanos’s precise and unstoppable bass lines. Repeated listens are rewarded with new neural pathways, until eventually, to the listener, new patterns emerge, which makes for an intensely gratifying and ear-wormy listening experience.
I do not mean to make Palm’s music sound like homework. The band is not, per se, inaccessible, but they do ask for some investment from the listener. At the core of each song is a dynamic and often dizzying rhythmic skeleton. There is no regard for time signatures or tempos on this end, and no regard for chords or classical melodies on the other. The shorthand I use to describe their sound is that they play jazz music, but not on purpose, and the legend of the group is that they have little formal training, and while this is hard to believe (witnessing the band perform these songs live anyway), it is at the core of what makes them such a powerful and compelling group.
This was on full display at their Music Hall show. Since I last saw them perform, the band has graduated from their aforementioned DIY and club-sized haunts, and they have also graduated in another sense. Their set felt telepathic, all members becoming one organism, a soulful machine. The instrumentation too has changed too, the Midi-processed guitars were still in use (creating sounds akin to a steel drum), but the band has also added a number of drum pads to recreate their studio output. Kurt has also taken to playing a single pickup guitar with foil (?) attached to some strings, seemingly not only feeling constricted by standard song structure, but also by standard instruments.
For so long Palm has felt like DIY music’s greatest secret, whispered about by those lucky enough to have seen them live. It is so gratifying to see their music reach a wider audience and I honestly believe their music is the future.
Scroll down for pics of the show (photos by Emilio Herce)
WATER FROM YOUR EYES