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.
Pink can also be granted a little performance leeway on the fact that the music he makes is not the sort that one can easily showboat to. True, Beck is one of the biggest lo-fi transmitters of the recent past, and at one point his shows—like his music—were collages of references to performers of times past. It is also arguable that Beck’s music became less odd as his showmanship advanced, whereas Pink is for the most part producing noises that the mainstream would classify as unembraceable.
For those that like a little weirdness with their pop, Pink is your go-to man and his output is likely what prompted a sold out show in the first place. It was heartening to see so many enthusiastic faces and ready-to-move limbs in a Mercury Lounge audience. It does not hurt that songs such as Before Today’s “Round and Round” proved thoroughly danceable despite being one San Jose choir short of the recorded version.
Supporting Pink was home recording legend, R. Stevie Moore. With just a guitar and a grizzled friend on percussion, the likewise grizzled Moore held rapt both those aware of his legend status and the politely mystified. Moore has been cited by Pink as a predominant influence, and it seems there is still much Pink could learn from the indie elder statesman. Although he spent the entirety of his set seated in front of a music stand, he emerged as the more unpredictable and intriguing act of the night. Maybe lo-fi really can breed stage presence, just not of the showboating variety.