Photography Credit: Stephanie Kimberly

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination… Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent… Always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.” –Jim Jarmusch

It’s not even 10 o’clock in the morning when I’m woken up, red-eyed and dreary from the night before, and with the two girls from Dallas asleep next to me on a foldout couch in front of a TV at a hotel somewhere. Tommy and Mark stumble in with breakfast burritos and alcohol which we devour before anxiously heading to the elevator, down, and out of the hotel onto 15th St. toward the music festival, only to be greeted head-on by a legion of burnt orange colored fans of University of Texas football.This seems to create a culture clash the city will just have to deal with, because, let’s face it: revenue needs to be made. We disregard the marching band noises coming from our left and become curious about the sounds of rock n’ roll coming from Waterloo Park, straight ahead. It seems unusually warm and sunny for a day in November, but none of us complain.

As we near the park a Fest official directs us to the will call tent where we hand over our state I.D.’s in exchange for wristbands, individually numbering us with barcodes that are used to then scan us in, one by one. The festival is saturated with young people in recycled fashion, with my friends and me being no exception. Miss Ali (the girl from the dance floor) and I decide to go check out the tent that Joe the Camel has set up, because it looks like that out of all swindlers who’ve rented space at the park today, it may be the only one with anything free in it. As I go into the tent for cigarettes, she leaves for more beer. An R.J. Reynolds employee scans my I.D., makes sure he has the right address for me on file and hands me a pack of cigarettes before I decline to have my picture taken, and then file out behind a handful of other addicts. As I’m stepping back into the light I look up and see an E.R. helicopter flying overhead to the county hospital, which is just down the hill and on the other side of the row of autumn-colored trees which line the park. I have a hard time wondering whether to be concerned about the patient in that helicopter, or how sweet this nicotine feels in my lungs. Any young person in this country can get a free pack of cigarettes directly from the distributor if they wander into The City far enough, but would be a fool to try and find free medicine and risks being labeled a radical left-wing nutjob if he were to suggest such a possibility. I turn to Ali and ask if she wants to head down to the stage where VEGA is about to play, but she declines and that’s the last I’ll see of her. I figure she’s probably sick of sharing her alcohol, and tired of me talking about what needs to be written. It’s not easy being a writer who is Down and Out; you’ve got nothing to offer the world but the sincerity of your words and that makes things especially terrible with women. So I walk down the trail and toward the stage by myself, where I’m pulled aside by Miss Stephie (the photographer) and am introduced to the band’s booking agent who is able to get me a press badge. After a brief moment of recognition, I head out to join in with a crowd of about 300 who has been anxiously awaiting the end of VEGA’s sound check.

I wasted a lot of time of watching the elitist members of the electronic vanity press debating over the band’s originality & their brooding in wasteful deliberation over the best hyphenated, genre defining term to be used as a label for the group’s sound, but now’s my chance to experience the band’s sonic vortex of awesome on a decent sound system. The drummer begins with a steady beat and before I know it the singer—quickly becoming quite the crowd-pleaser[1]—is stroking his synthesizer, sliding across the stage with fluid dance moves and singing in falsetto about his well-known pleasures. The guitarist on the right side of the stage is frantically strumming out chords until he breaks into a solo, going a little overboard but nearly capturing the Essence of Van Halen’s solo from “Beat It” and temporarily launching me into the soaring skies of Top Gun. This allows me a break from being hyper-analytical about it all, as I watch a star radiate in his brilliance.

Brilliance is a rarity; a gift. Perhaps the clichéd metaphor “it’s a double-edged sword” describes it best, but I’m either fairly certain or quite positive that those born with an inherent brilliance are thrown into the Game of Life with minds and bodies on opposing tracks, and consume so much energy that the odds for life-longevity stand at about 127:1. Those odds may be inaccurate, but I can accurately tell you that the Game of Life in America is rigged; it’s like a casino game, and after my leads help me nail who’s responsible for all the trickery I’ll take the board and its pieces and throw it all into a flaming barrel of Murdoch newspapers. And then I’ll moonwalk around it.

I head backstage for Neon Indian (part two of The Experience), and as Palomo tweaks his electronics for the sound check I’m greeted by Leanne, an addition reserved for this part of the act. Dressed in revealing, all black rock-star attire she walks toward me and stops to say hello, but I can’t even think to wave as I just stand there motionless, completely seduced by that strong presence every Diva brings to the stage. I look out at the crowd and a see roughly over 500 fans drooling in anticipation, but more than half of them look like they don’t know what to expect—probably having just downloaded the group’s newly released album[2] or various tracks from one of those trendy faux-journalistic, piss-for-nothing blogs that push ticket sales. I do know what to expect though, as I see sheets of LSD being passed around amongst the certified Cool who are hanging out behind the stage. The skies have darkened, and so it seems the music will too. As the show starts, Palomo’s bright eyes and fluidity from the first part of the act vanish and are replaced by a darker, jagged, more aggressive presence. Multicolored neon lights swirl into the crowd, and above the band even more neon—some sort of defunct, pixilated 16-bit videogame alive & loaded—help take the fans down the rabbit hole along with the music. I’m absorbed by it all with the rest of the crowd, but before I can say “Turn on, tune in, and drop out” the band is done and with beastly cheers still coming from the audience, they head backstage.

Thom Fain: What’s the biggest difference between dreamwave and chillwave?
Ronnie Heart: Honestly I don’t know how to differentiate the two because I don’t even understand what chillwave is. Dreamwave I know is something that sort of came out in the 80’s I think? I don’t really know about [genre defining terms], I just like to play music.
TF: Is it safe to say that we can just call it The Alan Palomo Experience?
RH: That’s the best way I’ve heard it described.
TF: A Neon Indian, I’ve never seen one of those. How did you guys come up with the band name?
RH: That’s more of a story Alan could tell you.
TF: So do you think that just about every possible combination of two-word pseudonyms has been taken?
RH: No, I think you can be creative… You just have to think more.
TF: If you had to use two words from the Spanish language, which would you use?
RH: Sonrisa Fea; ugly smile. When a person smiles, even if you think they’re ugly—the smile itself—it’s like the opposite. The [terms] oppose each other almost.
TF: When did the band decide to start using Samples?
RH: That’s Alan recording on his laptop and just manipulating different sounds.
TF: So if you pick something you like from another song, it’s okay to take it and make a grander, better song?
RH: You don’t necessarily say that it’s your complete product. But you are borrowing from, like a past emotion that was put into music.
TF: Do you think that [sampling] in any way points toward some sort of creative dead end?
RHNo, not necessarily. I think that it’s just a new way of expressing a certain feeling or emotion in a song. You know you can play around with however many sounds—you know I’ve even written a lot of riffs … one or two notes from a vocal melody in a song that doesn’t even have to do with the kind of riff I wrote. Sometimes something inspires you and you want to use it directly, or at least use a part of it.

The cynics who suggest that the well of creativity in this country has run dry are of the same breed as the morons who’ll be peering out of their underground bunkers on December 22nd of 2012 when they find out that, in fact, the world has not ended. Creativity in any medium of art is partly inspired by the same emotions that artists have experienced for millennia, and the work of the Past has been left for us to build on and use for Now so that we can inspire those from the Future. Maybe a painter emulates Egon Schiele’s stylistic approach for a while, or a musician takes a slice of inspiration from Todd Rundgren to create just the right feeling for a song. It’s possible that you’ll even see a writer absorbing the gonzo techniques passed on by Dr. Hunter S. Thompson to portray what he feels needs to be written. There is a fine line between imitation and emulation, and I see no wrongdoing in the emulation of art, insofar as the artist successfully captures the Spirit of the Original and shows that ability to create something new and Authentic.

[1]In this day in age, the degree of separation between a rock star and a politician isn’t far. As once Dr. Thompson wrote, “…crowd-pleasers are generally brainless swine who can go out on stage & whup up their supporters into an orgiastic frenzy—then go back to the office & sell every one of the poor bastards down the tube for a nickel apiece.”

[2] Psychic Chasms, which at this point is resting somewhere in the top 20 on Billboard’s chart.