The pains of being The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, at the Middle East in September 2009

Bad luck for indie-pop band the Pains of Being Pure at Heart: they drove up from New York for a concert in Southie on Sunday night, only to be greeted by a lackluster turnout, most likely due to the wet snow that soaked a city still moaning about how it didn’t get a summer. The performance space at the Artists for Humanity building was only about a quarter full -- that’s 30 to 40 people, tops.

But singer and guitarist Kip Berman remained unperturbed backstage before their show started. As his bandmates lounged on a brown leather sofa and played on their Macbooks, he talked about how pleased he was to be back in Boston.

“We were here this past month, and it was a lot of fun,” Berman said, referencing his early September show at the Middle East downstairs. When Berman spent a summer in Boston when he was 19, he used to obsessively attend shows at the Middle East and T.T. the Bear’s. “It’s a thrill to come back and be on the other side,” he said. “It’s a joy to come back and be part of something I love.”

Pains’ concert was part of the Kia Soul Collective, a 10-city tour that brought free music, art, and design to South Boston on October 16-18. Bands including White Rabbits, Cymbals Eat Guitars, and Here We Go Magic gave free performances all weekend in the Artists for Humanity building, where wall-mounted TV screens flashed cartoons and black-and-white drawings.

But free stuff usually comes with a catch, and Soul Collective’s was that the entire performance space was decked out as a shrine to Kia. Perhaps most alarming was a 20-foot cardboard robot looming in the corner, sporadically shooting green laser beams out of its eyes. (I tried not to look directly at it, fearing that I’d be seized with the inexplicable urge to ditch my ’98 Volvo and purchase one of the two shiny Kias parked in the back of the room.) In fact, the only way to get tickets to this Pains show was to test-drive a Kia.

The good news for Pains is that the people who did show up were enthusiastic. Clumps of twenty-something hipsters clustered around the railing, bobbing their heads energetically to Pains’ sweet, jangly songs. The band started off with “This Love Is Fucking Right!” and “Young Adult Friction,” the same two signature tunes that kicked off their Middle East show in September. Unfortunately, the space’s poor acoustics marred some of the catchiness of Pains’ pop; the drums overpowered the vocals and guitars, turning each song into a soupy mess not unlike the rain-soaked streets outside. But as Berman pointed out, the Kia Soul Collective tour is not exactly a typical show for PoBPaH. We can only hope that the next time the band comes to Boston, they'll find themselves in a venue more suited to their talents.

--Emily Cataneo

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