April 27, 2009

A Pleasantly Pain-ful Night of Music at Risley

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If any angst-ridden teenagers showed up to The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s show Saturday night at Risley Hall expecting gloomy, My Chemical Romance fare, they would have been sorely disappointed with the night’s musical offerings (though surely, given that misleading and cringe-inducing name, we couldn’t have blamed them for expecting some emo). But despite the musical illusions created by their name, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, the Brooklyn buzz band that has the indie blogosphere slobbering, play shiny shoegaze pop — and damn do they have fun doing it.
Saturday night’s show, which was organized by Risley Artist-in-Residence and Sun staff writer Will Cordeiro grad, was scheduled to begin at 9 p.m., though it didn’t start until 9:30. Opening was Ithaca College’s Caution Children, a six-person band that played an entertaining 40-minute set, channeling a ferocious, occasionally unstable, anthemic brand of pop-rock. (Indeed, if Bruce Springsteen had bipolar disorder, I imagine he would sound something like Caution Children, and I mean that as a compliment.) The band was best when it stuck to this balls-to-the-wall approach, as the few slower numbers it played had the effect of sedating its fervent following that was otherwise dancing throughout the entire set.
[img_assist|nid=37220|title=Bassist Alex Naidus rocking out|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0][img_assist|nid=37221|title=Not emo|desc=The Pains of Being Pure at Heart delivered an energetic, if short, set on Saturday night in Risley Hall.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]At 10:30, after a brief break, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart took the stage to a crowd initially less enthusiastic than the one Caution Children had entertained, though the audience’s diffidence was only temporary. Over the course of their 35-minute set, the four members of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (and an additional guitarist) jolted concertgoers into cheer and dance, tearing through ten songs, each one a blast of jangly, droning guitar and ambling drums set under the wispy vocal melodies of lead singer Kip Berman. Highlights from the set included “This Love Is Fucking Right,” “The Tenure Itch” and the encore-number, “Hey Paul.”
Perhaps most striking about the band’s performance was their refreshingly friendly and appreciative attitude, something rare in more seasoned bands. In the occasional patches of awkward silence in between songs, Berman was quick to fill the void with wonderfully vague song introductions (“This song is about libraries and doing it and stuff”) and equally bemusing expressions of gratitude (“Thank you so much for coming out on a school night”) — an effort the audience was more than willing to reciprocate with a frenzied enthusiasm.
Near the end of the show, audience excitement boiled over into a brief (and failed) foray into crowd surfing, a display that nonetheless left keyboardist / vocalist Peggy Wang amused and impressed (“That was awesome,” she said, smiling after the second, and last, unfortunate crowd surfer returned abruptly to earth.) Audience-band relations reached their warmest level in the moments before the band’s encore, when Wang began filming the rapturous crowd begging for another song, and in the moments after, when Berman grabbed the microphone immediately after the show and invited everyone to an after-party. (You hear that, Asher Roth? Kidding — seriously.)
If there were a complaint to lodge against the band, it would have to be the brevity of their performance, which barely cracked half an hour. Such is the reality, however, for a band still in the incipient stages of their career — there just aren’t enough songs for them to play. Not that it mattered terribly, though; the audience seemed busy enough dancing to the ones they heard.