The term 'triumph over adversity' is hideously over-used, from sketch-scripted sports movies to motivational speeches, but there is an eternal truth that success is much sweeter after frustration and strife. Ariel Pink's latest jaunt to Nottingham was a tale of both.
It began an hour and a half after England's limp display against Pink's home country, which itself tells you that the midnight hour was drawing close by the time things began. For some reason, despite the gig poster stating doors opened at eight, the first 'band', and I use that word with emphasised quotations, didn't begin playing until close to eleven. When they did La La Vasquez bored the venue with bored vocals and bored guitars, dredging through an embarrassingly dull set of detuned, low-tempo garage.
After around fifteen hours the power cut out. Attempts to revive it didn't work and so it was announced that the show couldn't continue, and the venue was cleared. However the show did continue, not within the obliquely 'wacky, LOLZ!!' confines of Spanky Van Dykes, redressed in favour of Becks' sponsorship of Ariel Pink's tour, but at The Chameleon, a venue roughly five times smaller.
By now the crowd had significantly shrunk, but The Chameleon was still dangerously full as punters from the nights earlier gig merged with Pink's followers. With no security and the venue owner's refusal to let people leave, despite the late hour and unbearable heat, it seemed that the night could genuinely end in disaster, or at the very least some meat-shunning, tea-drinking indie skeletons passing out.
Which left Brilliant Colors, originally the headliner of a double-booked gig at Spanky Van Dykes, a massive task ahead of them. Obligingly, the female three-piece took the job full on, raising the tempo and velocity of their catterwauling sub-gaze without losing any of the gritty charm. Slowly but surely things picked up; arms unfolded, legs became unglued and all limbs began swaying. As luck would have it they were the perfect lead-in for the night, with infinite energy and enthusiasm paving over the lack of discernible songs to leave an immensely enjoyable set which never attempted to steal the show.
Ariel Pink, and his backing band 'Haunted Graffiti' are well known (read: have been well known for about a month) for their ramshackle, often terrible shows. Like The Fall led by a too-old-for-his-clothes Beverley Hills hipster, things can easily for apart from the fulcrum. Something which, for the already tightrope-walking nature of the night, left the more knowing part of the audience expecting a trainwreck.
What they got instead was probably one of the sets of the year. With no sound-check and very little time to lug equipment onto the stage they somehow managed to nail the levels perfectly, something which was, admittedly, probably due to the acid-skewed of them.
By the time the band launched into the couplet of 'Amongst Dreams' and 'Bright Lit Blue Skies' all worries of disaster were allayed. Free of the constrictive, none-more-lo-fi, production of their mother records both songs are absolute pop-gems, and irresistible midpoints between sixties cool and eighties pomp. Pink's shrieks stretch further through the octaves and Haunted Graffitt's rhythms are both tighter and more expressive, at times even veering into Krautrock territories.
Recent single 'Round & Round' and regular favourite 'Harcore Pops' are eschewed in favour of a varied selection from AP's staggering number of releases, but this doesn't halt the momentum of the set in the slightest. 'For Kate I Wait', one of several audience requests blurted out between songs, is the highpoint; AM-radio pop with PM sensibilities and an ADHD patchwork flow. Soft organs marry to jangling guitars and desperate rhyming couplets in a fashion that is at once seductive, paranoid and fucked up. Very fucked up.
Mirrored to the band the audience too is a mess of styles, Topshop mannequins and hard-faced rockers meshing dancefloor maneuvers with moshing, but all are shared in the heady mix of euphoria and relief. Ariel Pink (and his Haunted Graffiti) seem both astounded and terrified of the sudden devotion, offered by an audience now encroaching the stage and within inches of their instruments. Perhaps they too are as surprised at the end-result of a night in which so much could have gone horribly wrong; an undeniable triumph.
Site - http://www.myspace.com/arielpink
Doug Aitken is a multimedia artist who takes an in-depth look at society's art today;...