When it comes to Ariel Pink, or more properly, Ariel Pink's Haunted
Graffiti, it seems some people hate his self-conscious
"outsider" pop postures. But he also has his adherents. Personally, I used to think
he was awful--but then the hooks to his perfect pop tune "Helen"
latched on to me.
Going into this show I was wondering, are there Ariel Pink
superfans? Or would this be another night of chin-strokers just
Before resolving this investigation, there were
opening acts to witness. At the door was a sign stating that original
openers Duchess Says, from Canada, were denied entry into the U.S. and
would not be playing.
I'm not sure how last-minute of an addition San Francisco's The
Passionistas were, but their amateurish indie rock definitely fit the
bill. The band's four members (three men, one woman, all switching
instruments) were very self-consciously quirky. Three of them were outfitted in
church robes, and the mustachioed fourth member wore an all black
outfit featuring the American flag emblazoned across his T-shirt.
Although the Passionistas' songs weren't entirely memorable, the mood they struck
Cryptacize--featuring guitarist/songwriter Chris Cohen, late of
Lead singer Nedelle Torrisi, looking radiant as a silent film star in
her long-sleeved, semi-sheer black dress, led the way through their
expressive tunes. It always astounds me how Cryptacize is able to make its nimble and complex songs seem effortless. Although live the
songs sort of all blend together, this sameness was partly
overcome by Nedelle's theatrical delivery.
After a lengthy gap punctuated by soundchecking, Ariel Pink's
Haunted Graffiti began its set in shambles, with more soundcheck
attempts. After some fumbling, the band finally got going, though, with
lascivious riffs accompanying Pink's occasionally manic, reverby
vocals. Despite the band's echo-laced genre hopping--from sludgy psych
to wiped out surfer melodies--Pink mostly came off dark and intense. He delivered a couple jokes, though, at one point rewording Scott Walker in saying,
"Just picture Paul Reubens, he looks a lot like me."
In answer to my initial query about the show, there were plenty of dancing fans, some of whom were even singing along and clapping. This activity was mostly relegated to the front
of the stage. When things escalated to crowd surfing, and a jumbo
sized roll of toilet paper cascaded through the air, many of the fair
weather fans had already left. At the end of the show, I left impressed
that the band was able to hold my attention for a little over an hour.
Personal Bias: I like every band that I know Chris Cohen to have been in.
By the Way: If you like things made of paper, a couple pages of Ariel
Pink's journal are reprinted in the recently released art/literature
journal Animal Shelter, available from Semiotext(e).