The crowd at Swedish American Hall on Friday was mainly composed of an artsy brand of millennials, clad in thrifted clothing just strange enough to look cool. Judging by this quirky-creative, artist-filled fan base — along with the playfully awkward opening performance by the trio Palberta — it was reasonable to suspect that Palm would not play a typical rock show.
Weaving through the eclectic crowd, Palm walked on stage rather casually, with the humility of a band still on the rise — guitarist Eve Alpert even mentioned later in the show, “We really weren’t expecting this. This room felt too big.” But despite entering the stage with this shy informality, Palm’s first song immediately dove into a whirlwind of high volume chaos and disjointed sounds.
Although the attentive audience seemed excited for this helter-skelter style of play, it is one that can be jarring for newer listeners. It was like each of the four band members was experimenting in their own unique musical world, creating a seemingly random amalgamation of broken chords and twitchy rhythms that bordered on sonic discomfort.
But despite this squirmy, broken style, there was an inexplicable energy to Palm’s music that made it increasingly alluring. The chaos would build into a seemingly relentless web of tangled sounds, but then suddenly, the four band members would stop all at once, strike a beat in unison, and in an instant relieve every ounce of tension — completely transforming discomfort into a moment of pure satisfaction. Sometimes, they even fell into a bit of a groove, if only for a second, before escaping again into the jumbled chaos.
Although stressful initially, Palm’s eclectic, experimental sound grows on you. A bearded fan in a dad hat exclaimed after their first few songs, “How do they even do this?” While an obviously rhetorical, awe-inspired statement, it was a valid question — how does a group successfully combine moments that sound like a mess of noise into mostly cohesive music?
The concert continued on in this strangely exciting way, alternating between entropy and harmony, and oftentimes walking the line between both. The audience managed to stay fairly engaged throughout this unpredictable set, cheering especially loud for favorites like “Walkie Talkie” and “Two Toes” from their recently released EP, Shadow Expert. The longer you listen, the more you become seduced by Palm’s unconventional style of play, captivated by the band’s fascinating sound.
Palm’s music is not necessarily easy to listen to, but it is definitely worth listening to. The group’s lack of convention, its wailing broken chords and arrhythmic beats are only discomforting if one remains firmly tied to the structure and feel of mainstream radio tunes and bubbly pop songs. Countering this, the act of engaging in Palm’s uniquely hectic music disrupts a limited notion of musical experience with sounds that are tense and agitated — and actually succeed in mimicking the discord of life itself.
While Palm does not make the sorts of top-40 jams whose one dimensional chorus’ replay in your head incessantly, the band’s songs achieve a level of uniqueness and uninhibited sound that should be appreciated. And if you can truly embrace the tumultuous nature of their music, it can be enjoyed, too.
Contact Julia Bertolero at [email protected].