The contrast between Tuesday night's King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard gig at Neptune and last night's Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions show at the same venue couldn't be more stark. The former: seven Aussie bros sounding as if they were playing Focus' "Hocus Pocus" after gobbling fistfuls of trucker speed. The latter: all sedate lopes, sighing guitar spangles, morose keyboard drones, and Sandoval's vocals wafting out in pacifying puffs that exist in a perpetual 3:13 a.m. state of ennui-bliss. At the King Gizzard performance, five assholes body-checked me while rushing to the front in the first 15 minutes with nary a "sorry." For the Warm Inventions, people stood or sat in rapt attention, (mostly) obeying the group's edict not to take photos or video.
Before we get to the headliners, props must be given to Daydream Machine for covering Spacemen 3's "Walkin' with Jesus" with gusto and reverence, replete with a guitarist doing Townshendian windmill strokes. (It was the only song of Daydream Machine's I caught, because public transportation.) In the gap between sets, the Rolling Stones' "Heaven" got aired twice over the PA, but that chillest of Jagger performances actually established the proper mindset for Hope Sandoval and co.
The Warm Inventions' set leaned heavily on their most recent album, 2016's Until the Hunter. (Important: Kurt Vile did not show to duet on “Let Me Get There.”) "Not All Our Tears" opened things with the opiated splendor of "Venus in Furs," its insular majesty reflecting the group's most attractive mode. (Expert spotlight-avoider Sandoval remained in darkness throughout the night. She is the anti-diva's anti-diva.)
There followed five ballads that varied ever so slightly in emphasis from spangly spookiness to narcotized beauty to gentle chug to music-box delicacy to mild tumult. I think Sandoval hit one bum note on the xylophone in the third song, and it stood out as a highlight. Lots of couples in the crowd held each other close. It was that kind of night.
And then after the sixth song, Sandoval walked off without a word. The bassist looked surprised. Drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig—famous for his galvanic sticksmanship in My Bloody Valentine—told the crowd, "We just escaped the Sonoma fire. We're still traumatized. Bear with us." He also mentioned "interference in the monitors" as a factor, and that they had just sacked their sound crew. The entire band exited and somebody put on a creepy sub-Coil track for the entire 55-minute delay. Many attendees bounced.
When Sandoval and the Warm Inventions returned, the remaining audience members enthusiastically greeted them. More ballads ensued. Some were dismally grand, some stoically wistful, some recalled spaghetti Western soundtracks, some were desultorily sultry, one—"Liquid Lady"—had the louche swagger of David Lynch's "Pink Room." The one constant was Sandoval's sullen, silken vocals, as lusciously lethargic as ever. It's not difficult to see why fans worship her.
Unless you're a total boor, Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions' songs ease your reality-addled mind. That is a not unimportant feat.