Words by: Kelsey Bryant
The Big Pink & A Place To Bury Strangers :: 03.10.10 :: Great American Music Hall :: San Francisco, CA
Walking into San Francisco's Great American Music Hall this night was transformative. Performing in white haze so thick that A Place To Bury Strangers was barely decipherable onstage, it seemed only appropriate that their heavy, psychedelic sound was equally as dense.
Thrashing to the strobes of blinding white light, their concoction of heavy reverb and bass drum roared through the hall until it was nearly too loud to bear. "Ego Death" was a standout as the players practiced their version of minimalism by stripping back the layers of sound to primal beats and reverberating vocals as guitarist Oliver Ackermann weaved his riffs into the wall of sound. With their gritty pounding, gothic guitars and distant vocals, this was The Black Angels under the influence of Joy Division with the volume cranked to twenty.
An endurance test for audience members who forgot their earplugs, feedback was still soaking over the crowd as the lights came up. Reactions at this show were a mixed bag, but the consensus seemed that most people were there to see London's The Big Pink. Though they may derive their name from The Band, these scenesters hue closer to the trippy, electro-musings of Klaxons or Crystal Castles and the dark psychedelics of Jesus and Mary Chain with a dash of glam.
For San Francisco, a city nose-deep in synths and psychedelia, this could have been a tough crowd to impress. As the smoke curled towards the ceiling, the lights cut out and Cypress Hill's unexpected call to arms looped through the speakers: "I want to get high...so high." After a few repetitions, The Big Pink climbed the staircase onto the stage, assumed their positions and switched the effects pedals back on.
Then came the bass beats, even heavier than before – the kind of bass that hits your heart and vibrates through your core. Set to the backdrop of one of the most ornate and delicate-looking venues in the country, their sound seemed to split the room at its seams. Opening with the whiplash of "Too Young To Love," it was clear that this was the kind of noise normally reserved for coliseums. Barreling into "Velvet," violet lights illuminated Milo Cordell's web of long hair, while Adam Prendergast convulsed onto his bass guitar. By this time the sold out Great American was packed to the back with the rest of the onlookers draped over the balcony. The self-conscious crowd was finally getting down.
Clearing the air with "Crystal Visions," The Big Pink shifted gears and softened their set with a few slower numbers.
"We're gonna play one of the slowest songs off the record," Robbie Furze announced. "We don't usually do it, but I think we're gonna try it."
From there came the moody croon of the title track from their 2009 debut A Brief History of Love and a great rendition of Otis Redding's "These Arms Of Mine," which Furze belted out over thin layers of buzzing reverb and his own echoing vocals.
Finishing the night off with hooky crowd-pleaser "Dominos," the audience cheered with content. There's nothing like a band that exhausts itself onstage. Dripping with sweat, every movement this night was spliced with passion. The Big Pink gave it their all and that's one thing San Franciscans will always appreciate - even if they blew out their eardrums in the process.
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