Ariel Pink at the Button Factory, Dublin, 16 August 2018
Baroque indie legend Ariel Pink has a mixed reputation as a live musician, to put it politely. For every positive account there’s a negative mirror image, telling stories of bizarre live sets, seemingly improvised and abrasive.
Perhaps that’s why the L.A. man and his backing band are greeted so warmly by the crowd assembled at The Button Factory of a Thursday night. A show of support early on, urging the group to feel comfortable and confident in front of their audience.
It works too. Time To Meet Your God is rapturous. With three guitarists, a synth player and a full time backing singer the group steadily build a wall of sound, the sort that produces a sound so thick you can nearly catch a glimpse of it making waveforms in the air. Drum rolls spill into and over the rhythm section, which is unfaltering throughout the group’s entire set.
Ariel is as enigmatic as he is unassuming, stood on stage in a washed-out black t-shirt. Not much of a talker, he shows his passions by hurling himself into the crowd to surf on a number of occasions.
One such endeavour lands him on his head, about five yards from the front of the stage. He tells the crowd he’ll never trust them again. Fair enough too.
Much of the show’s first half consists of material from the group’ latest full studio album ‘Dedicated To Bobby Jameson’. Feels Like Heaven hits all the sweet spots, with the group’s onstage vocal harmonies sounding thick and in-key, which can be a real problem for the band.
However, it’s the inclusion of Another Weekend which provides the first real stand out moment. It’s a superb song to begin with, but something about the jangly ’60s pop vibe translates so brilliantly live. Impossible to resist, the crowd is a whirling sea of motion.
Sure enough, the band stay true to their reputation. Seemingly unable to stay away from all things experimental for very long, the band launch into a 20-minute section of fuzzed out high tempo faux power metal material.
During this stage of the gig, the band look they’re having fun, but they might be the only ones. It’s the sort of material you might describe as more interesting than pleasurable to listen to. An unfortunate test of endurance. However, an improvised song break results in Ariel and the backing singer exchanging farmyard animal noises to one another, much to everyone’s delight.
A sustained feedback clears into the opening of Baby. After the 20 minutes, we’ve just been exposed to it’s like a glass of ice water in the desert afternoon. The track, a cover of The Emerson’s obscure original, is perhaps Pink’s vision of glittery baroque indie at its peak. Every word from the innocuous singer is echoed back straight at him, at three or four times the volume. A rare moment of pure gig ecstasy.
The band return to do a routine two-song encore, nothing which would sway the feelings of any in attendance one way or another. Certainly, there are a few with pouted faces who seem relieved to escape the heat and the feedback into the Thursday night air, but such will always be the case with a band as experimental and unafraid as Ariel Pink.
For those who appreciate the band for who and what they are, that Wednesday night in the Button Factory was bliss.