Pinback to back: 5.9.06, Northsix and 5.10.06, Irving Plaza
by Charlotte Deaver
After two nights of Pinback, and all the great shows I've seen in the past month, I might not be able to handle much more excitement. Pinback has been one of my favorite bands for a couple of years -- I happened to download some songs from iTunes one day in search of some new music (didn't know about music blogs back then!) and within days I bought all their CDs.
As a hard-core guitar girl, I love the sounds they get from their instruments, the way they attack the strings, how they seem to base melody upon what the guitars can do, rhythmically and sonically, and still make it drive hard and sweet. This is a band that intuits what the body wants from its rock and roll, and what it wants, I discovered on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, is a bass that's played like a Les Paul. Seeing them live, I finally understood what they actually do with their guitars: Rob Crow, who usually plays a Les Paul, also sometimes foregoes his six-string to accompany Zach (Armistead Burwell) Smith IV on bass. Rather than thump along with bottom notes, though, Zach in particular plays intricate chords, rythyms, and melodies on his bass, often doubling up what Rob is doing, but octaves below. You can hear the effect of this technique on songs like "Prog," which killed live, and "Soaked," whose lovely funkiness was just stunning: "surprised by joy," I was, just like the poet said.
At Northsix I noticed that they played all my favorite songs, like "Fortress," "AFK," "Non-Photo Blue," and "Prog" much faster than on their recordings. After the initial adjustment to the quicker tempos, I realized this is obviously quite intentional. They want a song to be fast and madcap, like it's running away from itself. The precision of their string-picking and plucking is, at least to me, almost scary. I have a hard enough time staying on the beat with a simple arpeggio - while they never once skipped or lulled. Not one mistake. Now, mistakes are fine -- you know, like that old Lovin Spoonful song "You didn't have to be so nice [or f&@k*ng perfect, Zach and Rob], I woulda liked you anyway" -- but they just don't make them!
The Irving Plaza show was better, I think. The sound was both cleaner and thicker, and although Pinback is not a very demonstrative band (but intense, gentle), you could tell they were feeding off the larger, rowdier crowd (a little frat, unfortunately - one reason to stick with Northsix!). The people way up front were very nice, though, and I met a great girl with a camera and some excellent tatoos (she's blogging on this too, so go check out her blog and her myspace site.
Rob rarely spoke to the audience, although at Northsix he took a bathroom break, running through the crowd to the back of the club and then running back quickly to get on the with the music. "At least I didn't do what GG Allin did," he said with a shit-eatin' grin (pun intended). Other than a moment here or there, the band's energy was entirely focused on the music -- no thank you's, no introductions, no crowd-teasers. I was up front for both shows, and yelled some compliment to them after a particularly rocking song at Irving Plaza. Those of us close enough to the stage could hear Zach squeak out a little smile and a "thank you," and we laughed, happy for those little shared moments of band/audience love. And of course, that was the only time he talked the whole night. But he wasn't, after all, on stage, with his band, his bass, and a swarm of fans, there to have a conversation. At least, not a verbal one.
Check out more excellent photos at Brooklyn Vegan.
At Irving Plaza: