How do you differentiate an Ariel Pink fan from others? Take a snap shot of any average street corner in your downtown area and pretty much anyone in frame would fit into last night's crowd at Trees. From the average goth kid to the plain-clothed middle-aged suburbanite, you cannot pigeon-hole a fan into one discernable category. That eclecticism is mirrored onstage by Ariel Pink and his backing band, and they effortlessly had the crowd swaying and mouthing the words to "Interesting Results."
And indeed, anyone who's ever attended an Ariel Pink show is in for interesting results. The performance last night at Trees was no different. His interesting brand of lo-fi pop recordings are quite a different experience when played by his full band on stage.
Opening the set with the psychedelic number "Trepanated Earth," complete with trippy video imagery projected on the stage's backdrop, Ariel Pink kept the usual '70s style pop motif flowing throughout the performance. And yes, there were even smoke machines.
Ariel Pink's stage presence throughout the night was borderline reserved. However, he sporadically peered out from behind his synth station to occasionally engage the audience in dramatic microphone-grabbing stances. While adorned in black and white leopard-striped pants, a shirt reading "Debbie," and toting a white handbag, he easily made up what is lost from the fuzzy home recording-style of his albums in the curiosity of the live show. In short, it is unavoidably entertaining.
And the fans gleefully dancing were a simple visual testament to that. "Bright Lit Blue Skies" and "Round and Round," two familiar favorites, set the crowd movement in motion. But the stand-out song of the night was easily Pink's cover of Donnie and Joe Emerson's soulful "Baby" that slowed the show down to a pleasurable sway.
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The show openers, Purple Pilgrims, a sister duo originally from New Zealand, and the one man band oddity, Kirin J. Callinan, were a beautifully mismatched pair of opening acts. They proved to be an interesting juxtaposition of styles. While Purple Pilgrims' echoey and reverb-heavy songs never approached a tempo faster than a ticking clock, Callinan conjured up the brash style of Nick Cave and Alan Vega of Suicide in his monotone-to-scream and shout style of experimental music.
But that pretty much set the tone for the night. An Ariel Pink show is nothing if not unexpectedly entertaining.
Even the band members themselves seemed a bit on the rag-tag side as a gathering of musicians. The keyboard player looked vaguely like a high school gym teacher I once had. And the bass player, well, was nonexistent. I distinctively remember hearing beautifully played bass lines throughout the show, but only saw two guitar players on stage. It would not surprise me in the least bit if this mysterious rhythm section was off strumming somewhere behind the curtain, rather than simply pre-recorded. That would be a joke at most other bands' performances. Not at an Ariel Pink show.