Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart @The Bell House, March 13th

Last Friday, to celebrate the divine Ms. Shana's birthday, we headed over to The Bell House in Gowanus for the sold out gig of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Andie and I were pretty excited to check out the newish venue somewhat within walking distance of us in Brooklyn.

When we decided a month ago we'd check out this much-buzzed about indie band, I, ahem, "previewed" the album and gave it a good listen about ten times in doing my homework. It wasn't bad -- a little twee, kinda shoegazy, sorta catchy. Every time I heard the opening notes of "A Teenager in Love" I was immediately reminded of David Bowie's "Modern Love." So, like I do with many newer bands, I decided what the heck, it's a cheap ticket, and if the band wows me over with its live show, I'll be the first person in line buying their cd legit.

We arrived at The Bell House after walking off our delicious meal from Zaytoons in Carroll Gardens just in time for the second opener, a band from London called Let's Wrestle. These three young lads reminded me of seeing a friend's younger brother's high school battle of the bands act -- rough around the edges, some raw talent, eager, energetic, pretty sucky. I thought the lead singer's vocals needed a lot of work -- perhaps in five years, it'll mellow out and be less Peter Bradyesque. Their best song was the last one in the set -- basically an extended jam, with no vocals!

But maybe I judged them too harshly. The main reason for being there, The Pains, promptly hit the stage and played pretty much the entirety of their album for about 40 minutes. They didn't exhibit much of a stage presence beyond just playing their music. And to our befuddlement, while the instrumentation sounded okay, the vocals were mixed in low and were off-key! First we thought it might be our positioning on the side by the wall, but Andie and Shana moved around to a number of places, including right in front of the sound board, and did not find any improvement in the vocals.

Yikes! What was going on? Did the singer in Let's Wrestle suffer from the same inability to hear themselves? The vocals for both acts were so poor, it got me and Andie wondering if it was a Bell House issue -- we'll have to think twice before making the shlep out to the venue again. And strangely, the packed house seemed to enjoy it fine. Were they drunk enough not to care?

Needless to say, I did not stop by the merch table to pick up a copy of the cd. I'm all about supporting small bands, but sorry, what a disappointment. Happily, I had my friends and good food to lean on. And a nice brisk walk home.

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