Unknown Mortal Orchestra front man Ruban Nielson is still feeling the effects of an intriguing, artistically-inspiring experience. At age 35, Nielson is a father of two and a faithful husband. However, he shared a deep connection with a fan in Tokyo in 2013. The fan brought a woman she referred to as her partner to one of his shows, so Nielson assumed their relationship was platonic, continued to speak with her online upon returning home and told his wife about her.
Nielson’s wife, Jenny, began speaking to the fan as well, and eventually started speaking to her without Nielson. One day, Jenny told Nielson that she invited the fan to come live with them in their home near Portland. In the summer of 2014, the three entered a polyamorous relationship which Neilson described as “a crazy awesome dream,” but noted that it got very complicated. That experience lead to his critically-acclaimed and aptly-named third album “Multi-Love.”
On “Multi-Love,” Neilson finds himself exploring brand new sounds which he describes on his Facebook page as “Depression Funk” and “Dadwave.” Lyrically, the album is completely focused on his relationship, giving insight into the thoughts that accompany such a strange situation.
Nielson and his band are currently on an enormous international tour to support the album, which included two shows at Philly’s intimate Boot & Saddle venue June 16 and 17. Both shows sold out, and most of the band’s other past dates did as well.
Philadelphia local Alex G opened for both shows, providing an excellent complement to UMO’s sound. He started off on a rough note, and joked that the crowd probably wasn’t too into his first song. However, he immediately improved and pleased the crowd with his impressive songwriting and raw sound.
The small, dim room filled as Alex G finished his set. As the concert goers discussed their expectations and previous Philly UMO shows, Nielson and his band came from the bar and squeezed their way through the crowd to jump onstage.
After addressing the audience, the band jumped into the punchy new track “Like Acid Rain,” a standout from the new album. They then moved into “From the Sun,” an upbeat track from their second album with haunting lyrics about loneliness.
The band then moved further back in their catalogue to “How Can U Luv Me,” a lo-fi song that heavily contrasted their recent work. Drummer Riley Geare showcased his skills with a long solo at the end, which segued into another new hit “Ur Life One Night.”
The band continued to show their versatility by playing both new and old songs, including classics like “Swim and Sleep (Like A Shark)” and “So Good at Being in Trouble.” They then finished their set with the title track from the new album, a straightforward contemplation of Nielson’s romantic life.
A synth chord lingered as UMO walked offstage and the audience clapped and shouted for an encore. When they returned, the funk-tinged bassline of “Necessary Evil” grew into an expansive, steady groove. Finally, Nielson introduced “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone” with its catchy Spanish guitar intro, to which the crowd burst into cheers. The disco-flavored beat had the audience dancing furiously, concluding their dynamic performance on an energetic note.