I haven't been going to a lot of concerts lately, mostly because the current economic downturn has negatively affected the live music space. That is, since fewer people have extra money to spend on shows, fewer bands are going on tour.
So i was really looking forward to this show. I had first heard Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti on a 4AD records sampler that came out a few months back. I enjoyed the lo-fi psychedelic song i heard there, so i tracked down their album Before Today, which came out earlier this year. That is a nice collection of fuzzy pop tunes, reminiscent of The Jesus and Mary Chain, or the work of Phil Spector. I was curious to see how this would translate to a live setting.
We went to The EARL for dinner before the show, and witnessed an employee putting up "This show is SOLD OUT" fliers on the doorway leading from the dining room to the concert space. Sometimes that can be a bad sign, as occasionally the back room will be overly full and poorly ventilated. We would have to see.
After a nice sandwich, we headed up the street to grab some coffee, and made it back to The EARL just a little after nine, which is supposedly when the doors were to open. Well, something was running behind schedule, and the doors did not open until 9:50 PM, almost an hour late. When we made it to the back room, it was not too hot, yet, but also not as air conditioned as i would have hoped for a sold out show.
New Age Wind Chimes graced the stage.
They didn't keep us waiting for long, as at 10:05 the first act took the stage. This band was Puro Instinct, who apparently used to be called Pearl Harbor. Not that they told us any of that -- i had to ask the person at the merch booth who they were. This was a six-piece, mostly female act. They had two guitarists, a keyboardist, a bassist, a drummer, and a lead singer.
Puro Instinct appreciate the setlist.
The bassist had a nice, hollow-bodied Epiphone, and she played it well, laying down a firm bass line under each song.
Rockin' the bass!
They keyboardist actually added some nice little new wave touches to the songs, which is noteworthy because quite often keyboards are so under mixed as to be unheard in a live setting.
The singer was a dusky voiced woman with long, curly blond hair that she flailed around. Her voice was deep, and the singing style reminded me almost, but not quite, or Siouxsie Sioux. She had a Siouxsie-like phrasing, and her voice resonated kind of like that of Ms. Sioux. In fact, i bet that Puro Instinct could do a great version of Hong Kong Garden.
"Leave your yens on the counter please"
Their music was generally new wavey, the Siouxsie voice and keyboard accents and firm, almost post-punkish bass line combined with nice dueling guitars. On the third to the last song that they did, the two guitars reverbed and chimed in a way similar to the work of Felt. You don't hear enough bands referencing Felt, so this was a really nice effect.
I was impressed. Puro Instinct were really fun. I found myself bouncing along with their new wave music and having a good time.
After they were done, i set my camera down on the side bar and grabbed my notebook, to record a few thoughts. And then trauma happened.
"AAAAHHHHHH!!!!" i screamed at the slightly drunk guy standing next to me.
He looked up in alarm. "What?"
"You are trying to put out your cigarette ON MY CAMERA!" I grabbed the camera and rubbed the spot he was hitting with his cigarette, but he had been brushing the ashes off, not mashing it down, so there really wasn't any real damage. I still glared at him reproachfully.
"Sorry dude, i thought that was the ashtray!"
"The ashtray is over there," and i point at it, sitting there well illuminated in the dim club light. Such is the danger that i, and my relatively expensive electronics, go through to provide a quality review experience to you, our faithful readers. So enjoy these photos, knowing the superficial damage my gear went through to provide them for you.
After that commotion, Tracers and i stood and chatted and watched the room fill in. About half an hour later the second ban took the stage. This was yet another six-piece band, which is strange, because six-person bands are not all that common.
This second six-piece act was called Magic Kids. I had heard good things about this band, accompanied by a picture of them. I recognized them when they were eating dinner near us, because one of the band members has to use a walker to get around. Disabled persons are unusual in the indie rock world, and he stood out in my memory. I could not remember what i had heard about the band though...
The tallest Magic Kid.
Well, Magic Kids play catchy pop music. There are hints of Saturday Looks Good To Me in their sound -- that sort of 1960s pop, with lots of harmonies. One interesting addition to that sound is that they have a violinist. Strings are not that common in this style of music, but i found it to be a welcome addition.
Magic violin Kid.
They played for about half an hour, and again it was good fun. The crowd seemed to be getting in to them, as i noticed several people dancing along to their infectious rhythms.
My only complaint is a minor one, and that is that they band was a little too loud for all of the harmonies that they use. If the instruments had been turned down just a bit, the voices could have been lowered and so not feed back as much through the PA. Harmony does not work as well when amplified so. However, if the instruments had been turned down, the whole thing might have been lost in the noise of the crowd, so i am not sure how to solve this issue. I would be really curious to see how Magic Kids sound on record....
Magic Kids in fast-action harmony!
After that, we had another thirty minute interlude while Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti set up. Despite the large band sizes, i thought that the between band transitions went rather smoothly. I would also like to thank The EARL's new sound guy for keeping the between set music at a reasonable volume. It was possible to talk to the person next to you without shouting, which was nice.
And so at about 12:15 (which was technically Saturday, that is, the day after the show was scheduled), Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti took the stage. Ariel Pink is a small, unwashed man in a bright tie dye, and backing him was a standard four-piece rock act.
The always-in-motion Ariel Pink.
They music that they played was not the fuzzed out pop that i had heard on their record. Instead, the band played a sort of rock modified reggae. That is, the music moved at a standard rock band pace, but it had a vaguely reggae-ish feel to the rhythms. At times this really worked, and at times it did not work so well and i found myself wishing that the band would just rock out.
Ariel Pink wants you to sweat in this heat!
Ariel Pink is hyperactive, running around the stage, dancing, and standing on the monitors to lean out over the crowd. Without the lo-fi recording, i found myself reminded of Robert Smith. He had a slightly deep voice, and a very Cure-like delivery of his words.
Ariel Pink has a piece of something frm dinner stuck in his teeth, apparently.
Man, i hate when that happen.
Now, slightly reggaeish Cure is a pretty neat concept, and i think it worked more often than it failed. It was not as interesting as their recorded work, where the reggae and the Cure influence are lost in the feedback and wall-of-sound recording technique.
Ariel Pink's Haunted Saxaphone.
It was also really late, really hot in the venue, and not as interesting as the two bands that had proceeded them. So after about half an hour, we headed out. I am glad i went to this show, and consider it pretty successful overall, even if the headliner was not as good as i had hoped.