NYC Popfest: Mahogany + My Teenage Stride + The Pains of Being Pure at Heart | Music Hall of Williamsburg | 6.14.2008
Despite the torrential rains and a slew of other shows with potentially the same audience (including Love is All, and to a lesser degree, Vampire Weekend), night three of NYC Popfest 2008 was a whole lot of fun. The venue wasn't sold-out by any means — the balcony wasn't open at all — but people who showed up stayed for all five bands on the bill, with very few people hanging at the downstairs bar during any of the performances. Indie-pop fans are dedicated. I'm breaking the evening into two posts, lest it be 10,000 words long or something, so this one covers the first three bands — all of whom are from Brooklyn.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart were the first band of the night and I was anxious to see them, as I've been liking their music for some time, the got the hot mention in L Magazine a few weeks back, and every time I read an interview they mention how much they dig The Pastels. I seemed destined to love them.
And I did. How can you not love great pop songs drenched in distortion and reverb? My Bloody Valentine comparisons abound, but to me they are more akin to Velocity Girl, if Archie had sung lead more. Or the Ropers or early Lilys or any band on Slumberland in the early '90s.
And they are very cute. In particular, keyboardist Peggy bops around on stage like one of the dancers in A Peanuts Christmas. (I'm thinking specifically of the girl who shakes her head side to side.) A friend commented "they just use distortion because they can't sing." (You should hear them play piano.) I would disagree with the not being able to sing part, but even if that was so… so what? I could name a dozen great bands who did the same. Are TPoBPaH great? With only about eight songs under their belt, too early to say. But loads of potential.
My Teenage Stride are seriously fun and their songs are ridiculously catchy. Sometimes maybea little too obvious in their '80s influences (why yes, that song does sound like The Chills' "Pink Frost" and that one is like The Wedding Present covering the Bunnymen…) but frontman Jedediah Smith is a thief with good taste — and a melancholic sense of humor.
A bundle of energy on stage, the songs had more oomph than on last year's quite good Ears Like Golden Bats. The popfest show was their last with bassist Mat Patalano and guitarist Dakkan Abe (I have a feeling the lineup changes a lot) and it seemed like they were determined to go out with a bang and much jumping around. Patalano, who has his own band The Specific Heats, will be particularly hard to replace — he's a real character. They also played a few songs off their new Lesser Demons EP, and I thought "Theme from Teenage Suicide" was particularly storming.
Slimming down from the double rhythm section lineup they had around the time of their stellar 2006 album, Connectivity!, the now five-piece Mahogany gave the best performance of the night and it was definitely the best I'd ever seen them play. (Much much better than their muddled set at Mercury Lounge a while back.) Aided in no small part by the great sound at Music Hall of Williamsburg (which helped all the bands, actually), they just really had it together. The downsizing hasn't affected their sonics at all, which are still a huge swirl of guitars and groovy basslines. And though you could definitely call their music shoegaze, Mahogany don't stare at the floor. They were in constant motion with more than a little posing — which made for some great photos, even for a guy with a crappy point-and-shoot. They still don't seem to be able to play more than a five-song set, though. Or maybe they just know when enough's enough.
More Popfest pictures on my Flickr.