at the Echo, February 10

Watching Mr. Ariel Pink perform live is a bit like attending a calculus lecture at a junior college. The experience is heavy with information, enlightening to a select few, and oftentimes tedious for the rest. Like a frumpy-haired, rumply-shirted and downtrodden professor, Pink stood behind his Casio lectern, mumbling awkwardly into a PA system with the enthusiasm of a man who’s spent years trying to elucidate complex theorems to his intellectual inferiors. One got the distinct feeling that it’s a passion for the content, rather than the element of being in the spotlight, that compels him to stand before a crowd. In fact, he shuffled onstage without the audience much noticing, and it wasn’t until perhaps the second song in the set that those under his tutelage began to take notice that his evening’s tenure had begun.

Digging through a plastic sack at his feet and pacing a rut into the Echo’s gum-spotted carpet, Pink withdrew tape after audio tape, popping them into a four-track perched on a vinyl barstool. He blasted his own jagged home recordings of fuzzy vintage-y rock and tweaked shrill twitters of feedback through his modest soundboard while accompanying himself with reluctant karaoke. Every so often, repetitive lyrics resembling a chorus were detected, and at these moments his audience seemed slightly more captive.

What every advanced mathematics lecture lacks, of course, is dancing girls. Here, Mr. Pink delivered. Toward the end of his set, he stopped and asked with exasperation to his listless, craning-room-only crowd: “Why aren’t you dancing? Someone should dance for me.” A heartbeat later, a bouncy and evidently inebriated blond woman in high heels began rhythmically prancing about onstage behind him. Like the jolt of snorting oneself awake midlecture, a sudden alertness asserted itself, and a man voiced behind me: “Now this is finally getting interesting.”

—Alie Ward

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