Neon Love Life
White Rabbit Cabaret
Thursday, April 5
It starts with a Bonnie Tyler lyric: "The neon love life, it cuts like a knife." No kidding. After three stellar years and a near-universally acclaimed album, Neon Love Life said their farewells with a benefit concert (of course it was a benefit concert) at the White Rabbit Cabaret Thursday night, and did so in the energetic-yet-elegant fusion of hard rock insanity and technical brilliance that has become their trademark.
Lindsay Manfredi, Sharon Rickson, Ashley Plummer and Tasha Blackman came from musical backgrounds so diverse it's amazing they could settle on where to go to lunch on any given day, let alone assemble a finely tuned band. And yet it all fell together. It was the world's most bizarre musical algebra equation, and just like any equation, you needed every single part for it to remain true.
Despite the heavy overtones, the concert was anything but somber; it was, rather, a relentless celebration of everything that made Neon Love Life so damned cool these last few years. There was a certain surreal moment, right at the beginning as they launched into "Whiskey" with that weird ethereal guitar riff that shouldn't fit with the rest of the song but somehow does, the point where you think "Wow, we're never going to get caught by surprise by that riff ever again," but from then on out it was full-throttle controlled chaos, the sort of business that led people to pick them as "Indy's band most likely to succeed."
You know how when a band makes it really big you start seeing bootlegs of their old local shows? There's a certain grainy quality, but you can still see exactly why they were great and virtually on a collision course with destiny. Any given Neon Love Life concert was like that. Well-known bits like "Love Control," a few songs from rehearsal that rarely made it on stage and Blackman's by-now-infamous rendition of "Teenage Werewolf" that traditionally closes out every NLL show. The whole thing would have wrapped up on Blackman's manic cackle if not for the audience's unanimous demand for an encore, resulting in one last unreleased song I didn't recognize but certainly fit the NLL mold.
If anyone were to have created such a thing as a perfect concert photo of Neon Love Life - and believe me, I've tried - it would look something like this: Rickson attacking the bass and screaming into the mike; Manfredi jumping up and down with limitless energy; Plummer working the guitar with a slight smirk that sometimes bloomed into a full grin; and Blackman committing reckless assault on her drum set. Algebra? Perhaps alchemy is a better comparison.
Because everything ends. Every band is an inevitable breakup, whether it lasts three months, three years or three decades. What really matters is the legacy left when you're finished. And it's no small legacy: three strong years, one of the best albums this city has seen in years, and almost certainly most importantly, the continuing legacy of Girls Rock! Indianapolis.
Right now, this minute, somewhere in this city is a girl, 9 years old or thereabouts, standing in front of a mirror with a guitar practicing something she did at camp, and in 10, maybe 15 years we're all going to be in an arena screaming her name and her band's name and it's going to be because of Neon Love Life. That's legacy.