Pink Mountaintops @ the Rickshaw Theatre, 9/27/09

Pink Mountaintops @ the Rickshaw Theatre, 9/27/09
Fucking badass. That’s the only way to describe blues duo the Pack A.D., who opened up for fellow Vancouverites Pink Moutaintops last night at the Rickshaw Theatre. The pair might sound suspiciously similar to an all-female version of the White Stripes, but with the distortion cranked and energy dialed up to the maximum, it didn’t seem to matter.

“We’re gonna play something that’s a similar tempo and just as loud” joked drummer Maya Miller between songs. She and her bandmate, singer/guitarist Becky Black, didn’t disappoint, as every song was as vitriolic and noisy as the next. Black’s voice is impressive on record, but live, it’s stunning—she’s clearly in possession of vocal chords of steel, as she howled and screamed like a banshee without ever losing her tunefulness. Her jeans were so tight that they looked painted on, and as she stood on top of Miller’s kick drum during a particularly thundering crescendo, her tall, slender frame made her look every bit as intimidating as any male rock icon. Hollering her way through “Making Gestures,” it was a little hard to believe her when she sang the lines “I should strike up a conversation / But I’m too afraid.” With the entire room held in the palm of her hand, it was impossible to imagine her ever having cause to feel social anxiety.

The Pack A.D. clearly upstaged Pink Mountaintops, whose repetitive stoner rock jams seemed a little tame by comparison. This wasn’t entirely the band’s fault—the PA system wasn’t adequate for six musicians, meaning that the sound was a sludgy mess. It was difficult to discern any sounds other than the dull roar of bass and distortion, with the occasional deafening squeal of feedback cutting through the mix. Still, Pink Mountaintops had no one but themselves to blame for their mopey stage presence—compared to the charismatic and affable ladies of the Pack A.D., the headliners came off as curt and disinterested.

Despite the technical difficulties and weak stage presence, Pink Mountaintops’ performance wasn’t a complete bust. The group is coming off one of the year’s best albums, Outside Love, meaning that the songs that managed to emerge through the murky mix were excellent. “Vampire” and “Closer to Heaven” didn’t quite capture the lush grandeur of the studio cuts, but they were enough to remind listeners of just how good the album is. It was also a treat to hear some of Pink Mountaintops’ old material given the full-band treatment. While early recordings usually featured only frontman Stephen McBean playing along to lo-fi electro backing tracks, the six-piece transformed “I (F*ck) Mountains” into a hypnotic, psychedelic waltz with spacy guitar leads and droning violin.

Pink Mountaintops’ next show is at the Commodore Ballroom on November 10th, when they will open up for Dinosaur Jr. Presumably, that venue will be better suited to deal with the group’s dense sound.
 
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