Live Review: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart with Hooray for Earth and Surfer Blood at Black Cat, Washington DC – 16 June 2010

By on Monday, 21st June 2010 at 2:00 pm

Pop music doesn’t have to be complicated. New York City’s the Pains of Being Pure at Heart are a great example of this. They write songs that have guitars, keyboards and drums going at it harmoniously with emotional lyrics. Yet when you hear them play live, it all looks effortless. Last Wednesday they played a sold-out show at Washington’s Black Cat, the last date on a 2-week tour of America.

The first of two opening acts, Hooray for Earth, are a fellow NYC band (by way of Cambridge, Massachusetts). A really eclectic sounding band, at one point, I thought they sounded like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (a real solid-sounding guitar band). But Tom Petty never has synths on stage with him, or multiple percussionists: a regular drummer and another bloke who stands in front of a whole selection things to bang on. I commented to a friend that I would love to have that job, because you have the most fun, beating on things like there’s no tomorrow. (We talked to said bloke after the gig and he explained, “I have the best job in the business!” And even more funny, there was a similar guy in the next support band, Surfer Blood.) The addition of extra percussive elements made other songs sound like ’80s tunes ramped up, and I definitely liked that. Fun stuff.

So Surfer Blood was next. I’m sure you’ve heard their debut single ‘Swim (To Reach the End)’, it was on everyone’s lips last year. Even Keith Murray of We Are Scientists conceded to me in January that this band from West Palm Beach, Florida, were the talk of the town. Like the Morning Benders I had seen the previous week, they looked really, really young. But they can rock out and have serious guitar-playing chops. In addition to bringing the house down with ‘Swim’, they handily delved into emo territory with the darker ‘Harmonix’. In all the hype surrounding the Drums, Surfer Blood has been criminally overlooked, judging from audience reaction. Have a listen to their debut album ‘Astro Coast’ and see what you think. But what really made the crowd love them was their raucous rendition of Weezer‘s ‘Undone – the Sweater Song’, featuring keyboardist Peggy Wang of the Pains filling in for lead singer J.P. Pitts’ guitar playing. Two uni kids next to us in town for summer internships couldn’t believe their ears and absolutely loved it.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are not a pretentious band. Lead singer/guitarist Kip Berman is the guy next door, so white bread and sincere that just you know if you took him home to meet mum and dad, they’d love him instantly. And that’s a good reason why he and his band can win over crowd easily. There’s nothing fake about this band; they’re in it because they love making music and they love entertaining people with their music. Their brand of guitar pop is romantic and emotive, not threatening at all, and I think that’s the secret of their success. Listen to their music and your day gets brighter instantly. I liken the live experience to swallowing sunshine and having a warm, fuzzy feeling going through your whole body.

Their latest single in America, ‘Say No to Love’, continues the formula that made their debut album a success in the UK last year. (The single won’t be officially released in the UK until next month.) I’d heard the single online but wow, it’s incredible live. Along with gems from the debut album like ‘Young Adult Friction’ and ‘Everything with You’, this was as close to a perfect gig as you can get. It was also a mass farewell between the bands, and it was evident from the hugs all around that these three bands had gotten very close over the 2-week tour. So much that they joined together for a spirited rendition of the Ronettes’s ‘Be My Baby’. After the show another friend of mine (one I couldn’t find in the mess of people stuffed into the club during the show) Tweeted to me, ‘that closing singalong was INCREDIBLE‘. ’nuff said.

After the cut: more photos and the Pains of Being Pure at Heart set list.

Hooray for Earth Photos:

Surfer Blood Photos:

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart Set List:
Come Saturday
Young Adult Friction
Say No to Love
A Teenager in Love
This Love is Fucking Right!
Higher Than the Stars
The Heart in Your Heartbreak (new song)
Heaven’s Gonna Happen Now (new song)
Stay Alive
Everything With You
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (Everything With You b-side)
Be My Baby (Ronettes cover with all three bands)

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart Photos:

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