November 28, 2014
“If you hate Ariel Pink, nothing in this review can possibly alter your opinion,” L.A. Weekly’s Jeff Weiss said in his Pitchfork Best New Music review of Ariel Pink’s recent release, pom pom. That thought extends to Pink's live show, which he brought to L.A.’s newest venue, the Regent, on Friday night.
Pink, particularly of late, has drawn his share of detractors. What is different these days is that the criticism is less about his music and more about the things he says in interviews — namely, the misogynistic tone of soundbite quotes about beloved singers Madonna and Grimes.
The latest fallout has seen Pink defend himself in interviews against attacks like an anti-Pink essay written by feminist DIY frontwoman Alanna McArdle. Fans have been thrust into the middle of an argument centering around whether Pink’s music is good enough to give him a pass on the things he says.
It is worth noting that plenty of women still support Pink, at least musically. At her recent Belasco show, Sky Ferreira threw a Pink cover into the set (a song, “My Molly,” for which she earlier filmed a music video that featured Pink). New L.A. resident Jessica Pratt thanks Pink in the liner notes of her upcoming sophomore album. And French singer Soko jumped up on stage on Friday night to dance and shout lines for Pink’s “Negative Ed” just three songs into the set.
This list isn’t to “#notallwomen” Pink’s effect on both fans and fellow musicians or to disregard the very real issues people have with the songwriter's actions, but to note that there are two sides to the story, a gray to the interpretation of Pink’s actions of late. As much as there are Ariel Pink fans and detractors, there are just as many on the fence over both his recorded music and his live persona.
Over the years, the L.A. local has gone from performing to pre-recorded backing tracks to, at the Regent this weekend, appearing with a five-piece band. (Still, Pink would call for more volume to the backing tracks, declaiming "backing tracks" to the tune of AC/DC's "Back in Black.") Likewise, his sets have transitioned from antagonistic and incendiary to something more inviting, something as fun to experience as it is to perform.
As the show was to celebrate the release of the acclaimed pom pom, the set list drew entirely from the new album. Still, the concert provided a good overview of the tricks in Pink’s repertoire. There was the irreverent goof of opening track “White Freckles.” There was '60s girl-group swoon of “One Summer Night,” which found the audience taking the opportunity to dance to one of the night’s more straightforward tunes. There was the noisy blast of “Not Enough Violence,” balancing chaos and beauty on a razor’s edge, never falling on either side of the blade.
And, if there was any question as to whether the fans were on board (or whether Pink cares either way), one simply had to watch the singer crowd-surf while singing “Picture Me Gone” or hear the most satisfying sonic composition of the night, closer “Dayzed Inn Daydreams,” a remake of an earlier Pink song, but arguably his best work yet.
If Ariel Pink's performance wasn't enough to sway the undecided into his camp, maybe walking down the street after the show was. Passing the characters that populate Downtown L.A. after dark, one understands that Pink’s music is a product of his reality, that his vision might be a giant mirror on all of Los Angeles.
Set list below
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One Summer Night
Put Your Number in My Phone
Not Enough Violence
Picture Me Gone
Exile On Frog Street
Plastic Raincoats in the Pig Parade
Nude Beach A Go-Go
Dayzed Inn Daydreams