Sunday, 19 March 2017

Two Countries, Two Shows, One Band.

two countries two shows one band pinegrove music live

Upon reflection of the last few blurring weeks of my life I can now confirm, with unequivocal certainty, that travelling to countries further afield, to beautiful and unfamiliar cities, to watch your favourite band in the world perform heartwarming live music - well, it truly does wonderful things for the soul.

Right around this time last year, following the release of their debut album 'Cardinal', I found myself falling head over heels in love with Pinegrove's abstract sound. I can still vividly remember the first time I listened to the record in its entirety. I am fondly reminiscent of the initial feelings it stirred within me, the atmosphere it held around me, like a strong sense of inexplicable familiarity. And yet in the very same breath, unlike anything else I'd ever heard, and it captured me. I feel like Basement frontman Andrew Fisher summed it up perfectly when he said, "It sounded like an old band I'd never heard of before. It felt like I had been missing out on something."

I think it's only fair to say that he's certainly not alone in feeling this way, as Pinegrove have managed to make a lasting impression on audiences all across the globe. When you attend one of their live shows, it's easy to see exactly why. See, here's the thing about Pinegrove: they have this really profound ability to turn dark little rooms full of strangers into the warmest and most welcoming of spaces that you could ever hope to find yourself in. Their recent shows in Brighton and Amsterdam were assuredly no exception to this rule.

Each time Pinegrove grace the stage, they do so with a genuine air of humbleness. They aim shyly excited smiles at the crowd before launching into their first song of the night. These nights they are a member down, with Nandi Rose Plunkett (vocals/keyboard/percussion) back in the US promoting a brand new release from her side project, Half Waif. Her presence is undoubtedly thoroughly missed, but what the five-piece lack in her absence they make up for in their their unrelenting infectious energies and profound ability to be a phenomenally tight live musical unit nonetheless.

Kicking off their night in Brighton with 'Visiting' and Amsterdam with 'Recycling', they manage to switch up their set between shows, compiling it each time with a pleasant mix of fan favourites such as 'The Metronome' and 'Angelina', tracks from 'Cardinal', as well as few tasters of new material that inevitably go down a treat. In particular, one in which the rest of the band exit the stage, leaving frontman Evan Stephens Hall alone to play a solo rendition of a new track that puts a poignant focus on sobriety. Before he plays, Hall talks about how his lifestyle makes it so easy for him to have access to a seemingly unlimited supply of alcohol, especially when on tour. The song, which opens with the line: "No drugs or alcohol today, I wanna remember everything we talk about," is about the desire to take a step away from that dangerous reliance, to enjoy and to have the confidence to enjoy people and situations without relying on a substance to do it for you. It is a message that resonates with me deeply, and I am certain that it will with so many others who listen.

It is because of this message and so many more that manage to cleverly trickle their way through Pinegrove's warm and emphatic music that allows this band to hold such a special place in my heart. Comparing the two shows side-by-side, it was easy to see that Brighton held the rowdier crowd by a landslide, particularly as one member of the audience became evidently so swept up in the energy that they attempted a crowd surf. "I'm tempted to condemn that," Evan Stephens Hall chuckles lightheartedly, scratching the back of his neck in disbelief at what just happened (I mean, has anyone ever crowd-surfed at a Pinegrove show before? I'd like to know). Though on a more serious note, Hall sheepishly points out that the people at the front of the crowd might not be so keen on having people land on them. He goes on to explain that as a whole, their songs are about learning to be a better person and to treat people better, to show respect towards those you care for and, perhaps even more importantly, those that you do not. "The last place I would hope people would feel unsafe is at a Pinegrove concert," he explains with genuine sincerity. It is in these very words that Pinegrove's core message and ultimate goal as a band - using music as a conduit to reaffirm the importance of love, compassion and respect between humans - becomes self-explanatory.

Other anecdotes from the shows included a chat about the newly discovered planets, with Hall enthusiastically reaffirming that, "Science is cool and real!" As well, one of the sets unexpectedly resulted in an audience led rendition of Smashmouth's 'All Star'. It is endearing moments such as these that allow you to grasp the charming and truly down to earth personalities that come together to form such a truly unique, effortlessly cool band.

I have now had the great pleasure of watching Pinegrove perform four times in four different countries, and each time they have been everything I expected and so much more - both as a live unit and, very simply, as people. It is clear to see that there are huge things on the horizon for this band, and deservedly so. If you ever happen to find yourself with an opportunity to watch Pinegrove in a live setting, I would wholeheartedly urge you to do so.

If I could describe what their live shows feel like in a word, it would be home.

Katy Belle.
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