The dynamic indie-rock duo that is Pinback graced Fort Lauderdale's Culture Room with a lengthy set of its twangy and twinkly compositions last night.
The duo has been releasing albums of lush soundscapes for nearly 14 years, and last night's performance provided an up-close encounter with the band's deceptively simple sounding music in the sonic flesh -- complete with a perfect reel of grainy and distressed visuals and film clips that truly enhanced the experience.
Pinback has never followed the pack. This was indicated by the band's unique sound and lyrical content relative to the legion of indie-rock peers that came from the class of 1998. The opening act, JP Incorporated, the group selected for this tour was a breath of fresh, super-weird, but none-the-less fresh air.
From someone who goes to shows on a professional basis: The opening band format has grown pretty stale. More often than not, they're just there to mark time while your girlfriend puts on her third outfit for the evening and tells you she "has nothing to wear." That's not to say we don't occasionally catch great bands in opening slots -- just that it's really quite alright to switch it up now and again, because we really don't want to sit through another post-Death Cab flannel-panel on a Wednesday night.
JP Incorporated opened the show for Pinback. What exactly is JP Incorporated? A man in a Carolina blue blazer and a turtleneck singing mock TV theme songs and conducting a survey to see how these programs might market in South Florida.
The performance was like a live action Tim and Eric sketch, complete with ridiculous powerpoint visuals, painfully awkward dance moves, and audience participation. The shows presented included Jazzbot Extreme, a monster truck that turns into a jazz machine with flaming saxophones, Gymnastics Dad (from the creator of Blossom), and our favorite, Lieutenant Custard and his Banger of Time, a program about Lieutenant Custard having adventures in time travel while on a magical breakfast sausage.
Pinback's three gents took the stage to an audience that had grown from an awkward gaggle to a nicely pack room. The band featured No Knife's Chris Prescott on drums. The set began with "Victorious D" from Offcell. The band immediately sounded album perfect as they warmed up for the long run of songs. "True North" from most recent release, Information Retrieved, made for an impactful second song, and put Prescott's formidable drum chops on display for the rapt audience.
The band's new material worked extremely well with the old favorites in its set, but the opening guitar plunks of "Non Photo-Blue" brought the audience to an excited sway. Zach Smith strummed, plucked, and flicked away at his bass, sounding like the bastard science baby of Level 42's Mark King and the late John Entwistle, and building a foundation of moving chords and rhythms for the band's understated vocal melodies and harmonies to play out over. In the indie-rock world, virtuosic musicianship has always been kind of an uncool thing; however, Smith's bass playing deserves so much more mention than it receives. Smith played last night in a way that was technically intriguing to be sure, but more importantly, his intricate touches and extended chordal work served the songs perfectly -- a rare case of musical athletics with a purpose.
To guitarist and vocalist Rob Crow's delight, some fans close to the stage had donned T-shirts with an old setlist printed on the front. The formidable guitarist laughed from beneath his wizardly beard while explaining that the band was going to perform that exact same set -- that is, if it was OK with the audience member. And we're glad they were cool with it because the set was as balanced between deeper album cuts and hits as any fan could have hoped for.
As mentioned, the footage the band selected for their backing reel truly accentuated the songs. The twinkling and weaving bass and guitar part of "Penelope," in particular, when coupled with a deep sea exploration scene from what appeared to be Lost in Space playing out on a screen above, stopped time briefly.
A highlight of the set came during "Fortress," which the band transformed into an amped-up synth stomper. Crow, dressed in his ever-present black blazer, cargo shorts, and a Venom T-shirt, put down his guitar, grabbed the mic, and gave an awesomely awkward rock star performance of the song. Crow did jumping jacks, the worm, and the robot during the sing-along break of the song's bridge, and ended by traveling through the audience, up to the bar area, and back to the stage.
The band performed 24 songs total, and not once did the set drag. For a band that has made its mark playing music of a rather introspective and cerebral nature, it was truly impressive how well everything translated in a live performance.
Personal Bias: Used to study to Blue Screen Life in high school.
Random Detail: The band enforced a no smoking rule, and I'm wearing the same T-shirt I wore last night today because of it. Catch me smelling fresh.
Random Detail 2: Rob Crow was mixing Jameson with coconut water. We're intrigued. Disgusted, but intrigued.