More photos here and here.
According to Pains of Being Pure at Heart keyboardist/singer Peggy Wang, one of her friends was letting the New York band’s show at the Middle East downstairs double as his bachelor party. This was news to Wang — she considers her band’s shows as perhaps “the least debaucherous thing ever.”
Hyperbole maybe, but there’s a kernel of truth to her observation. The entire evening did have a wholesome, clean-fun vibe. For one thing, I saw more X’s on hands at the 18-plus show than I have at the Middle East in a long time — and quite a few of those in the wristband demographic appeared to be recent inductees. I’m not even sure anyone in openers Cymbals Eat Guitar was old enough to buy a Pabst. Cymbals are a promising young quartet whose sound scampers between Built To Spill and the Pixies. They started early, so I caught only the tail end, but it was good enough to make me wish I’d seen the whole thing.
VIDEO: Cymbals Eat Guitar, "Wind Phoenix"
Depreciation Guild — the other project of PoBPaH (whew!) guitarist Kurt Feldman — were next. I’m pretty sure they had an appealing, solid sound — certainly more expansive than the pure pop of Pains, and slightly less hooky, driven by glassy, Guthrie guitars (Robin not Woody). I say “pretty sure” because the sampled synth-bass tracks they used muddled everything into a low-end soup. It could have been just the usual problems associated with the first date of a long tour. They did have some cool visuals projected behind them.
Pains opened their set with the one-two punch of their two signature songs, “This Love Is Fucking Right” and “Young Adult Friction.” What followed was a stream of quick, catchy pop songs, each one filtered through a lens of youthful innocence that can seem wistful and nostalgic or juvenile and cutesy. This duality manifests itself in all kinds of ways: the ringing guitar chords; the airy, thin vocals of Wang (who sounded oddly tuneless when her voice was isolated) and Kip Berman; the study-hall-poetry song titles (“Come Saturday,” “Everything with You,” “Higher Than the Stars”).
VIDEO: Pains of Being Pure at Heart, "Higher Than the Stars"
As much fun as their songs are, they did seemed to float in and out of the brain. There’s an interchangeability that’s actually part of Pains’ charm. Who cares that “This Love Is Fucking Right” and “Everything with You” are pretty much the same tune when you’ve forgotten one by the time they play the other? The kids didn’t seem to mind — and I imagine the bachelor was fine with it as well.