Spinning Beats at a Short Film Festival


We’ve noted the abundance of live music to see around the city this summer, but what about DJ sets? In this column, we’ll explore some of Brooklyns’s best spots to get down. First, a little turntable history. According to Wikipedia, the first DJ’d dance party took place in England in 1943, when DJ Jimmy Savile played jazz records for a UK society party. These days, as I’m sure you know, DJ sets are everywhere, and the best DJs out there manage to take disparate tracks and blend them together to create a smooth body of sound.

Last Saturday was a perfect summer afternoon, so I decided to check out Tropfest New York at Prospect Park’s Nethermead, “the world’s largest short film festival” (according to its website).  Specifically, I decided to check out Neon Indian’s DJ set.

Thousands spread across the Nethermead’s green lawn, covering it with blankets, popcorn, bathing suits, bandanas, jeans and various others iterations of festival attire. When I found my empty patch of grass just shy of 6pm, ethereal, electro-pop Bear in Heaven was playing.

Tropfest was founded 21 years ago in Australia when filmmaker John Polson set out to hold a short-film screening for friends. Two hundred people showed up, and the festival grew, spreading to New Zealand and Arabia and finally reaching New York last year, where it was held in Battery Park. Tropfest is a day of music and short-film screenings that ends with a shorts-film contest hosted by a famous person (this year it was Liev Schreiber.) One film screened between musicians was 2009’s fantastic finalist Bargain, directed by Rachel Givney and featuring the explosive Rebel Wilson.

My band of the hour, chillwave’s Neon Indian, was founded by composer Alan Palomo in 2009. His debut record, Psychic Chasms, was praised by Pitchfork, SPIN and Rolling Stone for its dreamy electronic tones. On stage, the band includes Palomo, Jason Faries on drums and Leanne Macomber on keyboard and vocals. The band released a second album, Era Extraña, in 2011 and Palomo is currently working on music for another alias, VEGA. For Neon Indian DJ sets, however, Palomo flies solo.

At 6:20pm, he took his position at the booth. Crowds cheered and some 100 people rushed the stage. As expected from the synth-pop spinner, it was a most robotic, hypnotic 30 minutes. The set started with a few spacey beats, building up with what sounded like a conversation between robots till a full body of rhythmic electronic sound filled the stage. Light Caribbean grooves were a nice touch at times, and transitions were fantastic, with every recognizable song its own electric version. The Champs’s Tequila came on, working into something Thriller-y and eventually some 8-bit beats (from video games!). Pieces of what could be Lipps Inc’s Funky Town came on and, toward the end, I.M.S.’s Dancing Therapy.

People danced and took pictures throughout, cheering for Palomo one last time before he got off stage. The set was a perfect introduction to summer–light, fun and super futuristic.


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