I am not a photographer, and yet Thursday night I found myself in Columbus, Ohio, at the very foot of a stage from which Pinegrove was looking down at me. iPhone camera in one hand, photo pass strapped around my arm to prove that I was, in fact, supposed to be there, I stared open-mouthed until another photographer poked me, asking if she could get past. The drums and bass kicked their way into my chest, and I was nearly helpless in the face of the primary-colored emotion on stage.
Pinegrove is an indie rock band, with touches of Americana and alt-country, that sticks to their symbols. They famously use an abundance of primary colors, squares and ampersands to compliment their empathetically philosophical lyrics and rush of guitars, drums and harmonies. Their concentration on visuals and rituals makes them a band well-suited for the stage. Frontman Evan Stephens Hall screams with desperation, reflected back to him by the audience. He alters his vocals from the recorded versions of songs, and yet true fans seem to know these differences by heart. Where his voice goes, they follow.
This is a band notable for accumulating fans of special devotion. Perhaps it’s the openness with which they admit themselves to their audiences, the kind of sharing that makes you feel like you can admit back. Their attachment to symbols gives fans a blueprint to follow, a way to visually express their love for the band. Each member of the band was wearing a primary color, cloaking themselves in clothing that connected them to the audience.
Pinegrove clearly invests itself in those who love their music. Throughout the whole show, Hall bantered with members in the audience, presenting a friendly, endearingly awkward, quieter personality that can get lost in the powerful statements of the music. He exchanged guitar picks with a concertgoer, played word games and joked about holding “chess or ping pong tournaments” in the concert hall. Getting to see a band live is about getting to dance and feel their music live but also being able to connect to the musicians on a more human level. You interpret their music in a different way after you see how their personalities affect the way they write and perform.
One understands better, then, how much the band changes when they perform. It is encouraging to see how all of Pinegrove breaks out of their skins, letting themselves loose onstage. Zack Levine, a founding member, gave an incredibly eye-catching and passionate performance on the drums. Meanwhile, Josh Marre performed both in his own band, Blue Ranger, which opened, and in Pinegrove. In both, his steely guitar solos caught listeners’ ears and natural cheers arose. One notable missing note was their steel pedal, which gives a fullness to their sound on much of their recorded work.
Hall more than made up for it in his passionate performance, one where he pulled each member of the band to himself. To call Pinegrove “honest” would be a painful understatement: Their music allows you to be freely raw, without ever chafing. They remind listeners that, although vulnerability can be achingly difficult, it is what we strive towards.
Daily Arts Writer Fia Kaminski can be reached at email@example.com.