Last Night: Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti at Bottom of the Hill

Categories: Last Night
haunted graffiti (2).jpg
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, Cryptacize, The Passionistas
March 17, 2009
Bottom of the Hill
Review By Nicholas Gitomer

Better than:
Getting pinched for not wearing green on St. Patrick's Day.

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 standing around?
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 was.

Cryptacize--featuring guitarist/songwriter Chris Cohen, late of Deerhoof and The Curtains--followed with a set of their sparse pop. 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.

Critic's Notebook

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).

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