I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again….context is everything. A certain sound, musical cue, chorus – it can bring you take you back to the moment you first heard it, played it to a friend, or drunkenly sang along in the wee hours of the morning (as is often the case here at my humble abode). The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s sophomore album Belong was the album of spring last year. My new roommate, who grew up on My Bloody Valentine, and I, who grew up on the Smashing Pumpkins, we instantly bonded over the glossy poppy bittersweet songs of TPOBPAH. Yeah, I’m a sucker for this kind of music when done right.
So when I was told by a friend in Split Works that they were coming into the Big Red for the JUE Festival warm-up (more on them later), well I jumped around like a giddy schoolgirl, called my old roommate, who prior to this show had been pretty much MIA since he moved out, and waited patiently for the days till tickets went on sale. I was going to have a ball no matter what, even with Yugong Yishan’s sound problems (which seems to get a lot of attention of the interwebs nowadays), or 20 kuai beers (kids have no imagination nowadays), or loud Spaniards screaming the whole time (it was all in good fun). This was my night, my treat, and nothing was gonna ruin it (geez, starting to sound like my sister here).
Skip Skip Ben Ben, opening, are continuing to kick all kinds of ass. And seeing them take over a larger stage was a delight. They pack such a large sound in what seems like such a small package that it’s amazing they’re only three people up there.
This might be geeky of me, but this is the kind of music I could picture over a Quentin Tarantino movie scene – rhythmic, cinematic, and straight up pulpy. Ben Ben is a monster on the guitar, and when she hits those high notes with her voice, it’s rock n’ roll bliss. As someone commented the other day, these guys would work wonders on an even larger stage like Tango if given the chance.
Coming off the high of Skip Skip Ben Ben, I almost worried that my prediction that they would upstage The Pains of Being Pure at Heart would come true. But after opening with “This Love is Fucking Right”, and me accepting the fact that they don’t sound as good as their album (I bet if I saw them live first I would be saying their album wasn’t as good as their live act), and the lead’s voice was echoing too much through Yugong Yishan’s lackluster sound system, I got all anime big-eyed and turned into my former self one year ago, singing along, sweating, and struggling to even make myself film whilst keeping still.
It’s the kind of music that makes you feel youthful again, shameless in its earnest, wistful lyrics and yearning voice of Kip Berman. I was surprised and thrilled to see that they were not all staring at the floor (they call it shoegaze music for a reason), but were, especially in the lead’s case, actively moving about – the lead acting like a boy who just received his very first guitar Christmas morning.And though no one quite stood out like the singer, everyone else was equally solid, giving it their all. By the time they closed (a three song encore mind you) with “Even in Dreams” I was a sweaty gleeful mess.
A great start by Split Works for their upcoming JUE Festival (click there to see their lineup) – if I was like this tonight I can only imagine how I’ll be acting in two weeks when they bring Death Cab for Cutie – they might have to hold me back.