Pinegrove play an intimate campfire set at Studio 2 and Getintothis’ Del Pike brings marshmallows to toast.
How welcome is it to see Pinegrove play an intimate gig at Studio2, as the dark nights roll in? They inhabit a positive space that uses early REM, Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver as touchstones. Their lively mostly upbeat delivery is infectious and if their recorded work brings a smile to your face then wait till you hear them live. Tonight they intend to squeeze the last rays out of the late summer sun, right here.
Hailing from Montclair New Jersey, the band is headed by the enigmatic Evan Stephens Hall, and they describe themselves as Emo / Indie / country, it’s a description that pretty much hits the mark, but the Emo element is played down in favour of a more alt-country approach.
Previous self-releases have included two mixtapes on cassette (tapes on the merch stand) and the celebrated 2012 Meridian album. Cardinal, their first release since signing for Run for Cover Records, is a brief but charming affair that has almost as many catchy hooklines and sweet harmonies as Wings Greatest Hits. The world and his dog in eight succinct tracks.
Run for Cover have kindly re-issued Pinegrove’s back catalogue on Everything So Far, for those of us whose tape decks went out with the VCR 10 years ago.
Pinegrove are briefly preceded by LIPA’s 18 Months – all pony tails and power chords. Their charm compensates for their lack of experience however as their frontman visibly shivers throughout the set with nerves. He tells us as much and also reveals their scheme to cover town with stickers in as many crazy places as possible.
The band shamelessly admit to only having five songs, but they are good songs in fairness, particularly Chemicals, with its workable anti-drugs stance and Jesus with its pulsating rhythms. Porcelain prompts much waving of lighters but goes on just a little too long. The band promise to release a single a month this year, but with just five songs under their belt, they need to get busy. Positively promising and brimming with ambition, 18 Months may well have their day.
Pinegrove emerge as a six piece and immediately the wooden slatted environs of Studio 2 become a cosy country bunker. 18 Months’ loyal followers, mainly young Emo kids disperse to the bar to help create a more intimate audience of varying ages and beard lengths. Their extensive touring of the States and beyond have crafted an accomplished sound that effortlessly harmonises and raises the hairs on the back of your neck with startling regularity.
Every so often upbeat songs like the REM – Don’t go back to Rockville-esque, Then Again, punctuate the standard campfire approach of Pinegrove’s set.
Waveform brings the mellow tone back as does the irresistible New Friends. Most of the songs come from their Cardinal album, one of the most satisfyingly rounded albums you can wave a stick at. So tidy that it starts with Old Friends and ends with New Friends – sweet.
Pinegrove’s encore is as long as their actual set and kicks off with Old Friends and the dreamlike Aphasia. The pretty much perfect set is interrupted by Hall’s often surreal, existential ramblings, He explains his walk around Liverpool on this their first visit, taking in the “pretty buildings” before spotting “…a broken chair and some abandoned shoes – That’s what I’m fuckin’ talking about”
His speaking voice almost channels Big Bang Theory’s Shelby Cooper and adds to the humour, but the giggles diminish as he breaks into the beautiful lyrics of Problems and Metronome “The night my necklace fell off…” the one song to raise a gentle cheer from the otherwise reserved crowd tonight.
When Hall tells us this has been a very special night, helped by Studio 2‘s red lamps that remind him of an Ohio thrift store, we believe him, and he promises us that he has added extra songs to the set because he loves it so much. Thank you.
Pinegrove have charmed the pants off us tonight, and we can only hope that signing to a recognised label will not change them too much. They have an almost unique sound and approach and it would be good to keep it that way. Evan Stephens Hall was right, it was a special night.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Olivia Hayes.