River City ~ Dispatches from Austin

Monday, May 16, 2005

Pinback in... Denton?

I hadn't been to Denton in years. But I was spending the weekend in Dallas anyway.. and that nebula of cosmic wondersounds known as Pinback were playing a bar called Hailey's in the little college town just north of the Metroplex. So I grabbed a couple of friends, and we hit the road.

I've seen Pinback several times, beginning with a legendary show at SXSW a couple of years ago that cemented their presence in my mind, and in my cd collection. Since then, I've seen a couple of other shows by these indie-mood-pop-math-rockers (sorry - couldn't help it), and they amounted to 'pretty good' and 'kind of inspiring.' But nothing transcendental. Which was frustrating, because knowing these guys, and the kinds of songs they write and the sounds they produce, you get the feeling that any point in time shared with them could suddenly become one of those moments.

And after leaving the two-hour show - fighting through a driving rain on the way back to Dallas - I had a broad smile on my face, and a ringing in my ears. This was really the Pinback show I've been waiting and hoping for since the SXSW set that started my obsession. The sound was full and enveloping, the crowd was enthusiastic, and the harmonizing front men, Rob Crowe and Zach Smith, sounded incredible on the mic.

They mostly played songs off of their new album, 'Summer in Abaddon.' So fans who aren't into the new stuff might not be so into this tour. While filling the set with 'SIA' songs doesn't leave much room for surprises, they played a long show and there were certainly some solid older favorites out there. Rob and Zach opened the show by themselves with "Versailles," a haunting, gorgeous melody.. followed by "Tres.." from their acclaimed second full-length, "Blue Screen Life." Both slow, mellow tunes really hypnotized the crowd before Pinback dove into the rockers.
Most of the old hits like "Penelope" and "Tripoli" were there... in the same arrangements they've been playing live for a couple years. And I'll say that most of the SIA songs were played in style very close to the album. Normally, this might be a little disappointing.. but in this case, it was still wholly engaging, because it was amazing to hear them bring such a full, lush sound to the stage. I wouldn't have thought they, or anyone, could recreate all of the texture of SIA in a live format, and do it so well.

It was LOUD. Hailey's is a small venue.. we were in a very shallow room, and eardrums were rattling.. to that point that it hurts for awhile, until you don't feel anything but a dull throb. But as loud as it was, it was still crystal clear, smooth and defined. I know they were having trouble with the monitors, and their were some mic problems. But it wasn't anything that dragged the showdown; All in all, everything sounded great. Thanks, Pinback, for making my return to Denton a wholly worthwhile endeavor.


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