Ruban Nielson, singer and guitarist of Unknown Mortal Orchestra excitedly addressed the sold-out crowd at the WOW Hall on April 11th. “What’s up, Eugene? You alright?” Unknown Mortal Orchestra brought a unifying experience to Eugene with their psychedelic rock performance on Thursday night, with support from indie-rocker Emily Edrosa and her band.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra hails from New Zealand, but are now based in Portland, Oregon. The band consists of lead singer, songwriter and guitarist Ruban Nielson, bassist Jake Portrait, drummer Kody Nielsen, and keyboardist Thomas Mabus. The band is known for Nielson’s distinctive voice complementing synth-heavy melodies, as well as their catchy lyrics.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra released two albums in 2018, “Sex and Food” and an instrumental album “IC-01 Hanoi.” “Sex and Food” offers a peek inside Nielson’s head with standout tracks like, “Not in Love We’re Just High.” “IC-01 Hanoi is an ambient instrumental album that came to fruition from the recording sessions for “Sex and Food.” The band is currently playing a string of shows on the west coast, including an appearance at Coachella Music Festival this weekend and next weekend.
UMO kicked things off with the track “From the Sun” off their 2013 album “II.” During the bridge of the opening song, Nielsen dropped down and ran through the crowd, giving the audience an intimate experience immediately. Nielsen sang from the center of the crowd, allowing the concertgoers to feel like a part of the magic and elusiveness that surrounds UMO’s music. The carefree atmosphere of the show was highlighted with friends laughing and dancing as well as couples soaking up the dreamy, hazy atmosphere of UMO live.
The crowd had the biggest reaction to the songs “Multi-Love” and “So Good at Being in Trouble” that came during the middle of the set. “Multi-Love,” tells the story of Nielson’s experiences being in a polyamorous relationship, and the beauty and turmoil that ensued. The sea of waving arms and smiling faces echoing back each verse created for an experience that was impossible not to get lost in.
The atmosphere created through the show was amplified by the stage decorations UMO used. The stage was adorned with hanging, green plants and was set up to be reminiscent of a comfy living room. The set decorations added an extra visual for the psychedelic, dreamy music.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra created a safe and open environment for everyone throughout the show, with lead singer Nielson at one point telling the “bigger boys” to “take it easy and be aware of the people around you.” “You’re very welcome here just take it easy.” The entire crowd was admirably respectful of one another throughout both sets, while still having an unforgettable time.
Towards the end of the show, Nielson gave a shout of appreciation to their opener, New Zealand born indie-rocker Emily Edrosa and her band. Emily Edrosa got the crowd moving with her boisterous and catchy tracks “Animal” and “Corner of the Party” during her 30 minute set.
The band left the stage momentarily without a word, yet quickly returned with a handful of songs to appease the screaming audience that hadn’t yet finished rocking out. The band began their encore with the crowd favorite “Hunnybee” off their 2018 album “Sex and Food.” The absence of many words from the band gave space for the delighted cheers and heavy applause for UMO.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s infectious melodies and the unique community they create through live performance is an experience that makes you want to relive it over and over again. The combination of feel-good songs and a communal atmosphere made certain this concert would stay with the crowd long after UMO left the stage.