Show Review: Ariel Pink @ the Mohawk (8/3)
For years people have been talking about Ariel Pink as if he was some sort of underground genius, waiting for his chance to break through to the masses, if only he had the chance. After the release of the recent album, Before Today, it seems the chance is upon him. We headed out to the Mohawk to see for ourselves, and to catch Puro Instinct and Magic Kids along the way. Follow the jump for more.
Puro Instinct used to go by the name Pearl Harbor, and I’m not sure of exactly what led to the name change, but they held their own on this scorching evening. The ladies of the group had a strong presence to go along with their sound. In my eyes, I felt a lot of the sounds of Beach Fossils coming through, using strong melodies to create a warm emotive quality, as if it wasn’t hot enough already. The four songs I caught were definitely enjoyable, though I would have liked my vocals to be turned up a bit, but that’s just one man’s opinion.
Can’t tell you how excited I was to catch Magic Kids opening up. Their breezy pop reminds me of old Beulah, but with a different singer. In preparation for the release of their album, Memphis, these kids have been hitting the road hard. They offered up future hits from their debut, “Candy” and “Superball,” and they did it with a heart-warming performance. While their exuberance definitely helped win over the crowd, they seemed a touch disoriented by sound troubles prior to taking the stage. You could tell that they weren’t quite on their game, but what they offered up will definitely make me head out to catch them next time their in town.
After the opening acts exited, the crowd swelled to several hundred in attendance, all anticipating an exciting show, which is precisely what we were given. Suffice it to say that they played a good deal of tracks from Before Today, which is good considering Ariel Pink has been around for years in some form or another. There’s no need to go over set lists this time, as the big thrill of the night was the phenomenal musicianship exhibited by all five members on the stage. Seriously, I’ve been to a lot of shows lately, but not a one comes to play like these guys. It’s as if they’d been practicing for years on performing these songs, such was their ability to shift in and out of different vibes and in between genres.
While I’m sure I should adore Ariel, he wasn’t the huge winner for me on the night. I give that honor to bassist Tim Koh. His bass lines offered up everything from psychedelia to R&B to surf-rock, all whilst barely breaking a sweat. Everything about his performance seemed to give the rest of the group soul. Ariel, for his part, was amazing, but, personally, I have one complaint, and it’s one I could make on his records too. His vocals, when they’re off, are really off. He can go to bass tones, or close to falsetto, but it’s the in-between that really gets me. Commanding the stage is something entirely different, as he had the crowd eating out of his hands. Rarely do you go to a show in Austin where the audience isn’t full of a showtalker somewhere, but everyone’s eyes were on the stage for the entire set. You have to give credit where it’s due, and Ariel did his part of playing the James Brown of lo-fi psychedelia.
Musically, the band won me over entirely. At one point I remember thinking that the music could stand alone, without vocals, and I would still dig it, which is a lot, since I’m a huge vocally influenced listener. I was mesmerized by the band’s abilities to move in and out of varying styles with such ease, and always remain as tight as ever. Whether or not you were a fan to begin with, or just a curious participant in the show, it’s guaranteed that you left wishing you could watch more bands play each night that do it as well as Ariel Pink and the Haunted Graffiti.
As usual, many thanks to Mary Rehak for the lovely photos.