Since my early high school days, I have always found solace in the entrancing music of the Portland-based band known as Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Since the release of their self-titled freshman album in 2011, the group’s following has increased exponentially—and rightfully so. UMO’s members have worked tirelessly over the last five years to master a kaleidoscopic sound, which incorporates elements of multiple genres, including psychedelic rock and groovy R&B funk. In turn, the band’s tone has seen significant growth, gradually evolving from fuzzy lo-fi jams to electrifying soul music. However, by sticking to their psychedelic roots and thoughtful, otherworldly lyrics, Unknown Mortal Orchestra has continued to be the perfect addition to any psych rock lover’s playlist of mind-bending songs. I am no exception to this statement, and that is why I was more than ready to catch the group’s set in Central Park last Saturday.
SATURDAY 07/30/16 – NEW YORK, NEW YORK
As I strolled through Central Park on my way to SummerStage, umbrella in hand, I realized that a sunny day would not have been the ideal weather for an outdoor Unknown Mortal Orchestra performance. The fog, humidity, and slight drizzle produced a perfect backdrop for the wonderfully strange noises that were about to consume New York City’s beloved park. After I ate some delicious four-dollar tacos from one of the food vendors at the festival, I was all set to enjoy the show.
When UMO finally took the stage and began to play their opening song for the night, “From the Sun,” I instantly chuckled. Of course the group had considered the absence of the sun, not to mention the lack of outdoor concert-appropriate weather, while planning their setlist. As lead singer Ruban Nielson crooned, “If you need to, you can get away from the sun,” I couldn’t help but appreciate the pun on that afternoon’s weather—they hit the nail right on the head, making light of a situation that otherwise could’ve turned sticky. I hope, and truly believe, that everyone in the SummerStage crowd was as comforted and content as I was dancing the night away to the transcendental sounds of UMO. It was as if all my problems and worries from the past week had slowly melted away and turned into something much better.
The only thing missing from Central Park that evening was a giant disco ball. The muggy, uncomfortable weather seemed completely insignificant in comparison to the colorful, sensational atmosphere during the group’s set. The crowd went wild, prompting the band to play three more encore songs, including the most popular banger, “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone,” from their latest record, “Multi-Love.” As the members of UMO urged the crowd to shut off their phones and live in the moment during the final song, the show ended on a positive, carefree note.