Ariel Pink at Fitzgerald's, 6/16/2013
On Sunday evening, the turnout for Ariel Pink looked pretty bleak.
The show, which was being held in the upstairs ballroom of Fitzgerald's, had a crowd of about 30 people. With the bar tables and stools set out in the middle of the floor and the upstairs balcony closed, hope for this show seemed to diminish by the minute.
Around 8 p.m., Purple Pilgrims took the stage. From the back, the noise looked like it was coming from nowhere. In actuality, it came from a sister duo, Clementine and Valentine Nixon, who were sitting side by side amid Ariel Pink's gear.
But though the noise emitting from the speakers was loud enough to be heard from the balcony, Purple Pilgrims is an act that features vocals that sound like a droning whimper, layered atop fuzz, feedback, and lazily strummed electric guitars. In many ways, their performance is as nonsensical as it is alienating.
That being said, Purple Pilgrims might not have survived in any other live setting.
For one, the duo played two songs in a 20-minute time frame and nobody left the room. It might not seem like a big deal, but it's pretty ambitious to ask an audience to pay attention to one song for ten minutes, let alone one who isn't likely acquainted with you. The second being that Purple Pilgrims kicked off a bill that seemed to be composed of people all living under one roof (or, one could argue, from the same cult).
The crowd was fairly quiet for Purple Pilgrims -- so quiet that one person dared snap at the end of each song instead of clapping -- but in their defense, the room didn't see more bodies until the second act, Kirin J. Callinan, took the stage.
Though Callinan seems he could also be part of an Ariel Pink-headed cult, his work was the most surprising of the evening.
The Australian native walked onstage wearing only a pair of American flag boxers and running shoes. As he stood amidst a large semi-circle of pedals, delays and loop pads, he went back and forth between belting out heartfelt love songs and dragging the audience into the middle of a science-fiction nightmare.
Though Callinan is best labeled as "experimental," it's easy to pick up influences across decades and genres; most notably, '80s dance-pop and fuzz/noise rock. Regardless, we're certain that he's a modern-day Dead or Alive.
His performance was hard to follow at times, but Callinan kept the audience intrigued. However, he truly captured their affection when he performed his single, "Thighs," which featured his most emotional performance of the night. Maybe it was the stick-n-poke tattoos randomly sprinkled over his body, maybe it was his androgynous, cocky certainty, but when he belted out "Your Dad won't know/ You'll be my girl/ I'll be your girl," he managed to charm the pants off of everyone in the room.
But after eight songs, it was time for Ariel Pink to take the stage.