Ariel Pink is a master of the strange poptronic tune, but on stage he and his Haunted Graffiti are not the most charismatic performers. The word of mouth consensus on May 4’s show at the Mercury Lounge, done as a taster for the forthcoming Before Today and larger tour, was that Pink put forth a more engaging effort than previous outings. Whether or not this is so, it appeared to matter little to fans at the very sold out show; the crowd was in the grips of a fun spasm, or maybe they were just trying to dance.
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Opening their one-and-a-half hour set with “Man Like You”, Patrick Watson established a precedent for the evening: dreamy lyrics paired with boiling percussion punctuated by imaginative sounds. (Hailing from Montreal, however, the band naturally first commented on the Canadiens’ playoff series against Pittsburgh).
Coming off their highly acclaimed debut LP, Gorilla Manor, Los Angeles’ Local Natives jumped on stage to a sold out Bowery Ballroom last Thursday. After having played that album about 100 times now, I and the thousand or so other fans in the build were ready to scream our heads off. But despite being a die hard enthusiast of the up-and-coming band, I wondered whether they were ready to rock a packed house, especially in New York.
As if singing to the heavens, Laura Marling gazed steadily upward like a marvelous folk angel. She seemed to be channeling everyone from Joni Mitchell to Carole King as she strummed her guitar. The most delicate chords were not wasted as her audience stood in awe of her quiet grace. Though she only played for 45 minutes, it was an utterly memorable sort of set.
In some ways, Marling is subtle and understated. Though she did have a backing band of keyboard, guitar, bass, and drums, Marling clearly didn’t need it, as evidenced by the half set she played alone, and without anyone missing the accompaniment. Her chord progressions are haunted, dreamy evolutions that are striking in the way they resonate in your brain long afterwards. Not only did she play guitar but she had a way of whistling that made one’s hair stand on end in the best of ways, as if there was no other person in the world but her.
Hailing from England, Kate Nash is making waves in this world of music. She may have only two albums to draw from, but she certainly has a youthful energy to bring to a sold out audience and her songs as delve into various genres of rock, pop, and even punk. At times, her voice recalls the pop punk sweetness of Ida Maria from Norway. Still, her set proved emotional in a much different way than Maria’s tends to, with a sense of personal intimacy as the lights turned off and her fans focused all attention on her.
There was a definite progression of the 75-minute-long-set. Beginning mainly with her more catchy singles, Nash encouraged the audience to dance and they easily sang along to the choruses and verses that they had memorized listening to both of Nash’s albums. Nash was quite playful, especially at the start of the evening, showing an enchanting side to her quirky personality whilst relating stories of crazed fans and railing against homophobia. The fact that she was on crutches didn’t stop her from standing while playing guitar, though she also sat at her keyboard to provide some of the melody lines to her songs. At one point, an audience member even crowd surfed up to the front in order to dance behind her on stage as she played.