9/25 Pains of Being Pure at Heart @ Mohawk

pobph_bannerWell, as Pains of Being Pure at Heart battle for our top album of the year, we were excited to see them, once again.  They brought with them a nice little entourage that included Cymbals Eat Guitars and The Depreciation Guild.  On a night with loads of shows across Austin, The Mohawk was packed full of fans eager to see these Brooklynites take to the stage.

Cymbals Eat Guitars were the opening act, and they set an extremely high standard from the get go. Their ability to combine melody with, let’s be frank, extremely post-punk moments is somewhat surprising.  You could feel the energy seeping out of singer Joseph Ferocious and into the crowd.  Not only did his voice seem to be belted out from the inner soul, but his hands moved so furiously at time that you could barely see his hands, becoming a blur in his raucous playing.  One of the most interesting things for me was the drumming of Matt Miller; he was spot on throughout the entire set; his drum fills were spot on.  This made the band come across as one of the tightest acts I’ve seen this year.  The group’s energy carried them from their place of little knowledge in my heart to a band I’m going to listen to for the rest of the week.

Next up came The Deprecation Guild, who was fronted by Pains of Being Pure at Heart drummer Kurt.  Oddly, this group set up the tone for the rest of the evening.  They used some sort of 8-bit technology to project onto a screen for the duration of their set, but that was honestly one of the most enjoyable things about the set.  Their somewhat atmospheric shoegazing was prime for a full on sonic assault on the audience.  But, they didn’t assault anyone, let alone threaten the audience with a ferocious wall of sound.  Vocals and guitars were both way down in the mix, which really bothered me.  Sure, I can see how using your vocals as a different instrumental aesthetic can be great on an album, but I want to hear that live (this was to be a problem later too). It wasn’t just that you couldn’t decipher the lyrics, it was that you simply couldn’t hear a word coming out of their mouths.  Also, when you have a sound that is perfect for unleashing the fury upon those in attendance, let it fly.  A lack of volume coming from the guitars bore the mark of boredom and half-hearted organization.   Still, the headliner would pack the punch right?

As The Pains of Being Pure at Heart set up, the entire crowd seemed to swell with anticipation.   I’ll get this out of the way and say right now that their self-titled debut is easily one of my top two albums of the year.  I’ve listened to it so many times I could probably play it back for you in its entirety, that is if I had any hint of  musical talent.   Last time I caught them, however, I was disappointed, as you could barely hear Peggy’s vocals…that being said, the rest of the band sounded great.

And, just as the last time, the actual music was great.  The addition of The Depreciation Guild guitarist Christoph added an additional layer to the live setting, not to mention a little swagger, as he seemed to move in unison with Alex. They played several of the songs off their new EP, the highlight being “Higher Than the Starts.”  They also tossed out a nice version of  “103” off that EP as well. Of course, you could also find the rest of their hits scattered throughout the set as well.   “Come Saturday” sounded great, as this time you could actually hear Peggy and her “ooh ooh  oooh ooohs.”   The same worked for “Young Adult Friction,” and the bobbing bass had my feet tapping.

But, there was a catch to the evening. I hate to say this, as I love the band, but one thing detracted from the show for me: Kip’s vocals.  Now, I recently talked with Kip about this in our interview last week, but I still think, or rather wish, that he would reconsider.  During his banter between songs you couldn’t make out a word coming from his mouth, and this was true for the songs as well.  I’m not sure if this was the band’s desire, or the mixing itself, but I love the lyrics to this band, and I wanted to hear them. Sadly, I wasn’t able to catch them; good thing I have them all in my memory.

So, the verdict was that The Pains of Being Pure at Heart still have a little bit of work to do in the live setting.  It’s not a huge deal, but a few minor tweaks and the band will continue to blossom.  That being said, I’ll pay to go see them anytime they come through.  Cymbals Eat Guitars were the evening’s winners, as they completely caught me off-guard. I’ll definitely spend more time with them.  All in all, you can’t complain with seeing great music in Austin on a great Friday night.

Many thanks to Eric Uhlir for the great pics.


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