Thursday, January 24, 2013
I listened to a few recordings of their early shows and I realized I would need to temper my anticipation and see their live act as a different version of their sound with all the music played faster than the recorded versions. They were still touring on the strength of the Summer in Abaddon album when I first saw them at the Avalon on May 30, 2006. They had assembled a traveling band that emulated their sound reasonably well, and though the songs were all played very fast, I was still awed by the musicianship of Rob Crow's guitar and vocals and Zach Smith's wizardry on the bass.
They pull musicians from other San Diego bands like Kenseth Thibideau and members of Jade Shader, generally maintaining their 'live' performance sound which I saw a few more times. Then in 2010 something cropped up called Pinback presents the Rob and Zach Show for which I was lucky enough to attend the first show down at the Detroit Bar. This was just Rob and Zach on guitar and bass, with a bank of recording and looping devices allowing them to control all the different layers of the music themselves thereby recreating their recorded sound to a surprising degree. Unfortunately for subsequent fans, they had to end that tour a few nights later when Zach's wife had their first baby a little ahead of schedule and he scurried home.
Throughout these years, I went to see all their many offshoot projects like Goblin Cock, Three Mile Pilot, Optiganally Yours and Rob Crow's solo career, and as these were often in smaller venues like Spaceland or The Echo, I was able to meet them and actually have some conversations with them. It has meant a lot to me to be able to express to artists I admire, just how much their music means to me even though I have probably come off as a tongue-tied clod on occasion.
Moving on to probably my favorite song from their new album, "True North" (which I felt certain they would not perform since it is their first song to require a string section), a string section magically appeared at the back of the stage in the form of two musicians from opening band Judgement Day. Pinback with strings is really something to hear! Not only is the song an amazingly complex construction but when accompanied by the strings which are alternately sawing away or adding a slow steady background I was already near tears at the sheer beauty of what I was hearing. These are the rarest of concert moments when the feeling of ecstasy overwhelms and the world seem to come to a standstill.
The songs soared, and our spirits soared right along with them. It was like the culmination of everything I love about this band all there on display, right in front of you. Their music is so calming and reassuring to me that by now whenever I hear even one note of their music, I am overtaken by a wave of calm and peace. Or maybe it was the sweet, strong scent of marijuana that was as heavy as I've ever experienced at El Rey. It altered reality. Rob Crow was in fine form as he swigged heartily from a never ending supply of beer, but never losing the slightest sharpness in his playing and singing. Even after he tumbled out into the audience for a little surfing (below), he still missed not one note.
They have one of the strongest song catalogs to pull from so the set had no low points. Every song was a masterful demonstration of why they are so good at what they do. Regular favorites like "Fortress", "Sender", "Penelope" and "From Nothing To Nowhere" sounded sharper and better than ever with the clearest back and forth vocals I've ever heard from them live.
I now may view Information Retrieved as the best Pinback album yet and many of the songs sounded even better in their live versions. The above mentioned, "True North", as well as "Glide" (and its great rear projections, above), "Proceed To Memory", "A Request" "Sherman", the beautiful "Diminished", all were carefully and faithfully reproduced with the added pleasure of seeing them enjoy themselves so much. And this all took place the night after another great El Rey show with Calexico, which I reviewed and posted at Radio Free Silver Lake.
Posted by Brad at 10:54 PM