If there ever was a king of underground music, LA pop-oddball Ariel Pink would likely wear the crown.
His albums have amassed acclaim including his latest, ‘Dedicated To Bobby Jameson’.
As delightful as Ariel’s music is, his reputation as a live performer is mixed. For his return to Brisbane’s The Zoo (24 November), Ariel showed his fans he is as interesting onstage as he is on record.
Opening was local singer Emerson Snowe singing over tapes playing his lo-fi pop hooks, but he was much more enchanting than karaoke. The performer sang and danced his heart out, pausing occasionally to swap tapes and fast-forward to the right tune.
But thanks to his charismatic performance, the crowd didn’t mind at all.
What followed was an erratic set from local indie-pop quartet Blank Realm, who opened with a chaotic ten-minute jam filled with noisy guitar, keytar, and yelping vocals.
The band was ferocious, swinging their instruments around while their big, pop hooks brought the crowd closer to dance.
Energy levels were high from the start of the main headliner, with Ariel bouncing across the stage as his ushanka-wearing backing vocalist barked opening track ‘Nighttime Is Great!’.
Ariel’s backing band Haunted Graffiti were barely visible among the smoke and flashing lights on stage, but they made their presence known through the deafening noise filling the venue.
Opinions on sound quality depend on how well you know Ariel Pink. His recordings sound cheap and lo-fi, but his sugar-sweet melodies always burst through the hiss, especially on the gorgeous hands-in-the-air anthem ‘Feels Like Heaven’.
Those expecting a live setting would result in more clarity were mistaken, with the volume and distortion turned up higher. Fans persevered through the noise for songs like this, with some dancing through ‘Ghosts’ with hands tightly covering their ears.
The tipping point came during ‘Jagged Carnival Tours’, a disorientating, noisy piece that attracted the attention of onlookers outside while also being too much for fans, some of who had to leave to give their eardrums a break.
After pushing fans away, Ariel pulled them back in with a sweet cover of Donnie And Joe Emerson’s ‘Baby'.
Most fans were tired by this point, but not Ariel and his band who returned for an energetic, four-song encore. Dripping with sweat, Ariel ran wild on and off-stage, even pulling a fan on to the stage to dance; both jumped off it to crowd surf during ‘Bright Lit Blue Skies’, with Ariel singing the entire time.
Ariel Pink is a wild, talented, unpredictable and a completely original performer. Even with all of his amazing songs, a two-hour long show is a bit of a slog, but never boring.
The only thing to expect of The King Of The Underground is the unexpected.