Better than: Stage diving off of my couch into my television set.
On Monday Night, several hundred of the area's coolest people converged on Hailey's Club in Denton to see a bill consisting of three blog-tested, hipster-approved acts.
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, Magic Kids, and Puro Instinct (formerly Pearl Harbor) have just hit their stride on this leg of their US tour together, and, judging by the line of folks waiting for the doors to open, the fans were primed and excited.
They had a good reason to be: The show's promoters, Gorilla vs. Bear and Spune Productions, have been calling this "the bill of the summer of 2010." And, for many in the audience, it would be the first time to see an Ariel Pink performance.
Any expectations from first-timers were quickly shattered.
When Haunted Graffiti opened their set with "Hot Body Rub," the sound was full and strong. It was clear from the first few notes that Ariel Pink's backing band has no hacks at all, and they maintained a high level of professionalism for the rest of the night. A special treat for the Denton crowd: Seeing Dennis Gonzalez of Yells at Eels and Added Pizzazz sitting in with the band on the first song. Gonzalez served as more than just a trumpet player, though; Ariel Pink actually hid behind him for the first half of "Hot Body Rub." Then, suddenly, this little guy with pinkish blonde hair appeared. He looked more like a troll doll than the leader of an indie-rock band.
His eyes were open wide as he shouted "Hot tub / get into my hot tub," in a voice that ranged from Elvis Presley to Gollum. It was like watching an eight year-old in the middle of a sugar-rush spaz-out. But the way he engaged the audience was highly effective.
Ariel Pink played the role of an enabler rather than frontman. He whipped the crowd into a frenzy and let them do whatever the hell they wanted, which, oddly enough, resulted in more crowd surfing and stage diving than a circa 1992 Green Day concert. The ultimate rave-up came when the band broke into "Bright Lit Blue Skies." The show then peaked on the next song, when the band played a Billy Jean-esque version of "Round and Round."
At that point, a handful of fans (all dudes) stormed the stage and began dancing. The song lost quite a bit of steam when one of said dudes snatched the microphone from Ariel Pink's hand and attempted to finish the song for him. Pink didn't seem to mind, though. He walked to the drumset and grabbed a pair of drumsticks and hit them together for the remainder of the song.
The set ended with an energetic version of "For Kate I Wait," from his 2004 album, The Doldrums
As the sweat-drench audience filed out of Hailey's, they looked like they'd been hit by a bus that they never saw coming. Who would've guessed that the freak-folker from California could put on such an explosive show?
Opening band Puro Instinct also impressed the audience with sped-up takes on their mellow songs. "Lost at Sea" blew the recording away, as did "California Shakedown," and "LUV Goon."
Magic Kids, however, didn't have the swagger of Puro Instinct's lead vocalist, Piper Kaplan. The sound for their set was muddy, and they asked for the stage lights to be turned off, which left them in the dark for most of the time.
Personal Bias: I've been an Ariel Pink fan for a long time, but I didn't have high hopes for this show based on Pink's recorded music. I was blown away by how well the music translated when played by a top-notch backing band.
Random Note: At the end of the night, there was a guy complaining that he had lost his keys. I felt bad for him, but then I remembered seeing him repeatedly diving off the front of the stage. So...
By The Way
Hailey's is one of my favorite clubs, but I was disappointed by the lack of beer selection. It was only about a third of what it usually is when school is in session.