With the entrancing beats of electric fluorescent lights and the rosy aura of Valentine’s Day, Unknown Mortal Orchestra wove a psychedelic trip at the Orange Peel in Asheville. The four piece collective took a vacation down memory lane, first stop, through tears that burn “Like Acid Rain”. Frontman Ruban Nielson’s voice pierced through the audience with the opening number, weaving a tale of drug use that ends with burning in the sun and dissolved love. Followed by a tried and true favorite, “From the Sun”, had everyone in the audience singing along, starting with gut wrenching “Isolation can put a gun in your hand”. It’s obvious that these lyrics strike a chord, not only with Nielson, but with the entirety of UMO; this was performance for the art and not simply the gratification. Perhaps more than anything, however, this show was a hallucinogenic homage to love, and the woes and heartbreaks that come along with it all. Yet this mix of synyth pop, and heartache blues didn’t stop the experience, a love letter to every kind of hurt that makes you human. One felt best through the shared experience of a concert with a bunch of strangers on a day made up by Hallmark to commercialize love.
Multilove, the band’s latest full length, chronicles the ups and downs of Nielson’s time in a polyamorous relationship and you can hear every trial and tribulation in the croons of songs like “The World is Crowded” and “Stage or Screen”. With their performance on Valentine’s Day, UMO’s show felt like a hip anti-ode to love and every heartbreak that’s come and gone. Old favorites like “How Can You Luv Me” and “So Good at Being in Trouble” escalated this anti-ballad, but couples and singles in the audience alike were feeling the vibes. By the time the encore rolled around, however, everyone was screaming along, “loving me could be your fatal flaw, just hanging in here trying to be your necessary evil”, really rooting in the idea that sometimes it feels so good to be so bad. And even though any UMO show promises to be a sensory overload, thanks to the combination of synth (Quincy Mcrary), bass (Jake Portrait) and drums (Riley Geare), added to Nielson’s vocals, this show was slightly disappointing simply because it wasn’t quite loud enough. When the closing song, and a personal favorite, “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone” came around, it felt like you were embodying the terms and conditions necessary for entering the heart— the perfect footnote to a day drenched in love.