Live: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart/Twin Shadows/The Watermarks

FITZGERALD’S — 4/8/11: I could be completely off the mark, but when it come to live music, it’s always felt like Houston has been starved for choice. [Ed. Note: We don’t necessarily agree, but hey… :)]

Maybe it’s the numerous venues that have been torn down to be replaced by generic bars, or maybe it’s the fallout from the Walter’s on Washington incident from 2006. Whatever the reason for the scarcity, though, it certainly is no longer true, thanks in part to the magnificent bastards at the Free Press. Not only have they managed to create Houston’s first proper music festival (sorry, Buzzfest, but much like your audience, you’re a bit too old and irrelevant), but they have resurrected the iconic Fitzgerald’s and transformed it into something beyond a bastion for third-wave ska.

This past Friday night, the Free Press pulled down both Warpaint and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, creating yet another example of why it’s worth the headache of I-10 reconstruction, awful Houston humidity, and nonexistent parking to hit up the Heights.

 

While it appeared as if a significant number of tickets were sold for Warpaint’s show, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart were slated for their first Houston appearance downstairs. Houston indie mainstays The Watermarks opened to a thin crowd that felt even thinner due to the fact that The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s tourmates Twin Shadow had fallen ill.

The initial few songs certainly didn’t inspire, as The Watermarks ground out a few indistinguishable songs. As their set progressed, however, the crowd naturally filled in, and by intention or chance, The Watermarks opened up and brought out the “A” material. Drum machines and heavy synths were added to distortion-heavy riffs, turning a pedestrian performance into music that inspired curiosity and further attention. I wouldn’t be surprised if The Watermarks converted a few fans simply through the last few tracks of their set.

With Twin Shadow ill, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart took the stage earlier than expected. Fresh off their newest release, this year’s Belong, TPOBPAH had quite a task ahead of them. Tons of hype contributed to a full house in which fans chose to see the Brooklyn natives on their first trip to Houston over the much-loved Warpaint upstairs.

In the end, few could argue that they made the wrong choice, as The Pains of Being Pure at Heart brought their rendition of long-forgotten alternative rock. Although their set was short, the Brooklyn quintet covered tracks from both of their critically-acclaimed albums, each song an respectful nod to the 1990s. The thin and timid vocals, atmospheric keys, and power pop guitars washed out by a healthy dose of distortion all harked back to an era in which Jennifer Love Hewitt was teen queen and ’90s alternative rock championed the likes of R.E.M and Pixies.

It’s this connection to the past that allows The Pains of Being Pure at Heart to be so enjoyable: your head knows that TPOBPAH are only a few years old, but your heart remembers a time 15 years ago when everyone would’ve loved this band. Certainly lead singer Kip Berman‘s between-song chatter about Tecmo Bowl, the Houston Oilers, and deliciousness of Denny’s helped emphasize their alt-rock leanings.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart succeeded where other revival bands like Interpol have failed, in that their homage is kept simple. Through a combination of simplistic lyrics and clean execution, TPOBPAH appealed to emotion without needlessly elevating the sound to a soulless, intellectual level. Sure, there were times in which the nostalgia felt too intentional, as with “My Terrible Friend,” which coats itself in a very fine veneer of The Cure’s “Between Days.”

After an hour with the band, however, you realized that you’d been treated to a rare but fantastic experience. After all, we’ve all gone against our better judgment and listened to “Semi-Charmed Life” for a bit too long. We all crave the embarrassment-free sense of nostalgia that The Pains of Being Pure at Heart so easily conjured up. Such is the charm of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: all the emotion and none of the guilt. END

(Photos: Watermarks; The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. All photos by Christopher Weeden.)


Live review by . Live review posted Friday, April 15th, 2011. Filed under Features, Live Reviews.

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2 Responses to “Live: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart/Twin Shadows/The Watermarks”

  1. Spencer Flanagan on April 18th, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    Sweet review! I love TPOBPAH’s new album, and I can’t wait to see them live!

  2. judith on May 9th, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    The Pains of being are excellent and your review does them justice :)

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