Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart at The Barbary

New York City bands The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and ZAZA made a quick stop at Philadelphia’s The Barbary before finishing up their spring tour together. And by quick, I mean half-hour sets. Maybe it was a mercy – was I the only one in attendance who didn’t have a final the next day? Maybe it was a lack of songs – the Pains could play their entire released discography and still not fill an hour. Either way, the too-brief night, however fun it was for the moment, felt anticlimactic in the end.

ZAZA, featuring Pains drummer Kurt Feldman, went on first with an introduction of “Hi… errrr… banter” from guitarist/fronmtan Danny Taylor. Though the band experienced some guitar issues early on, they eventually found a working groove. Swirling, ethereal, droning… pick any shoegaze adjective and it’ll stick to ZAZA, though that’s not meant as a dig. Taylor unfurled a vast array of guitar tones with his mother of an effects board while bassist/keyboardist Jennifer Fraser danced through the layers with her fleet lines. Though Feldman has pretty perfect time and proved to be a top notch drummer later, he felt like a waste here. ZAZA uses preprogrammed drums, which were louder than Feldman’s floor tom/snare/cymbal setup. And while the beats were solid, nothing seemed beyond the grasp of a drummer with a full kit. Granted, Feldman was working a double shift, but given that he only played for like 65 minutes total, ZAZA’s choices in percussion became distracting.

Preprogrammed or not, ZAZA still provided a cool set, featuring songs like “Sooner or Later” and “Always On” from the band’s new EP Cameo. All four songs are available for free online at The crowd wasn’t particularly into dancing… or clapping… or jokes… but this was also the same crowd that filled The Barbary back-to-front, as if they didn’t want to appear too eager to attend this sold-out show. As such, ZAZA seemed to have gone over well.

Aside from a few minor amp issues and flubbed notes, Pains of Being Pure at Heart put on a mighty tasty show. Tunes from their eponymous debut like “This Love is Fucking Right!”, “Stay Alive,” and “Come Saturday” were played to near perfection, with waves of distortion drifting over the audience. A disco ball and a bubble machine made the lovesick, charming music that much more adorable. Frontman and Philadelphia Kip Berman was excited to be playing a show hosted by R5 Productions, arguably the city’s strongest alternative to Live Nation, and WPRB 103.3 FM, Princeton University’s radio station. The latter even got a dedication with the uber-catchy new song “103.” Berman later wished his mother, who was in attendance, a happy Mother’s Day. What a good son.

But while the set was fun and peppy, it was also awfully short. The Pains played for about 35 minutes. Throw in ZAZA’s half-hour set and it still doesn’t match the hour wait after door’s opened plus the 25 minutes spent setting up between bands. Granted, the Pains only have one full-length to their credit, but it wouldn’t hurt to throw in a Jesus and Mary Chain or Smiths cover or two… or three.

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