This being my first time attending a show at the Sugar Mill, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The venue, with a spacious open-floor design both inside and out, provides a great vantage point and even a slight breeze among the crowd.
When I arrived, opener Chicano Batman from Los Angeles had just walked onstage and introduced themselves. The six-piece, featuring the main members and two sassy backup vocalists, got the crowd as much into the mix as they could. They sounded decent though, all while wearing their fanciest dresses and classic prom tuxedos. To have the nerve to pull off those outfits (in this not-exactly-cold weather, no less) paid off, both in style and ease.
The music did suffer somewhat, however, due to an unfortunate sound mix, but the band took it in stride. I saw the band before a few years ago, and they’re definitely still entertaining to watch, but it seemed as though the crowd wasn’t fully behind them. This is unfortunate, because Chicano Batman has been quietly delivering both enjoyable albums and shows for many years now.
Seeing Portugal.The Man at this crucial juncture in their career is to see them surrounded by a very intricate and diverse fan base. Some were older fans who’ve been with them since the early days of Church Mouth,while others were clearly there because of the huge umbrella that the success of “Feel it Still” created. Both were very obvious while attending this concert. P.TM fans even made light of it by wearing shirts that said “I liked Portugal the Man before they sold out,” or some variation of the aforementioned phrase. Honestly, I’m into some very strange stuff, but I never got super into them until I saw them last year at a festival and realized that they had actually created that massively popular song from last year.
That’s not to say that they aren’t a compelling band live. They’ve never been a group that took themselves too seriously—a fact that works to their favor in the world of weird indie music, where that seems to be the main ingredient more often than not. Opening with a clip intro of Beavis and Buttheadmocking the band’s music videos, Portugal.The Man launched into two covers—first one from Metallica and then another from Pink Floyd. Both are very stylistically different, but “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “Another Brick in the Wall” got right in with the feel of the band and of the night.
Following that, the band continued with some more of the tracks from last year’s Woodstock, including “Live in the Moment” and various other choice cuts like album-opener “Number One.” “Purple Yellow Red and Blue” also captivated the audience, with a brilliant light show that would continue for the entirety of the performance.
The show, which was pretty full by my standards, sounded just as good as last year’s performance when I saw them, but with the added recognition that helped them to get where they currently are. It certainly helped improve the production and made the show all the more intense and enjoyable. These guys may not be aware, but they’re reaching the big leagues now, at least in this humble reviewer’s opinion. As the crowd sang along and rocked out to “Feel It Still,” it was evident that Portugal.The Man has indeed arrived on the mainstream side and is a band that’s worked long and hard to get to where they are.