I'm disappointed in you Ariel... (but not really you...)
Tonight was Ariel Pinks final show in the European leg of their tour. Final show usually equals great performances and therefore high expectations from the crowd. And the performance was pretty much spot on. There were a few bum notes here and there but I for one feel privileged witnessing such moments. That in a small way this performance has been unique. And quite often bum notes, or a lack of tightness, occur in moments of release. What I mean by that is the band get into it and forget themselves momentarily, snapping back when they realise that there has been a mistake. But you would not attend an Ariel Pink and his Haunted Graffiti set with out expecting hitches. After listening to a few D.I.Y and studio albums you understand the beauty of Ariel Pink quite often comes from it's occasional incomprehensibility and general messyness. Perhaps the latest recording 'Before Today' stands as an exception to that, although the mood changes within often alters the feel of the album quite drastically and very daringly. All in all Before Today is perhaps Ariel Pink's masterpiece. Ariel Pink is the king of lo-fi, and his fans are fully aware if this, therefore NO-ONE would be attending this gig expecting to hear polished re-enactments of past albums. No-one. This shouldn't lower expectations for performance though. And I don't suppose it did. Nor did the band disappoint. Having said that something went wrong somewhere, but where?
It was the crowd. Something has to be utterly wrong if, at the front of the crowd, slightly to the left, Lucy Vann and myself are the only ones dancing. To be fair, to our left, in the epicenter, there were a few moving bodies, but not enough to constitute the usual sort of sweaty mess you would come to expect from such gigs. Alright so maybe Ariel Pink is a little pretty niche, but him and his troupe are the sort to attract (one would have thought) the type of geeky cult "I know all the words" crowd that at least bob their heads in a frantic sort of "AGH I'm at an Ariel Pink gig" way (i.e. Myself and Lucy).
Things were looking up at the beginning. They bashed out their version of The Rockin' Ramrods "Bright Lit Blue Skies", a sure crowd pleaser. Looking around for that usual participation, the thing that unites all music lovers, that turns fans into tribes, that immediately, from the first line of that first song, unites the crowd, makes us all one being, a current, a flow, singing along. To my dismay, not many were. The lighting was excellent. "Bright lit, Blue skies" The stage was a wash with a blue blue so dazzling the band became invisible, "You're full of liiieeees" the strobe lights flickering rapidly, usually igniting a sense of euphoria and unity in the crowd, causing arms to rise freely, and cares to just slide right off your shoulders. On the whole, arms remained firmly pointing downwards. So maybe people do not love bright lit blue skies as much as I. Perhaps people prefer the Rockin' Ramrods version, which is fair enough. Next Ariel dished out some snogs with the ladies on the front row. Naturally Lucy and I pushed forwards to see if we couldn't get a snog ourselves (...rock star kisses don't count...) We were too late, he was already back on stage. That was cool though, we were pretty sure he'd hand out a few more later. A couple of my friends saw him in Paris a few nights before, apparently he had been more than generous then. He didn't. And I don't blame him. This crowd did not deserve rock star kisses. He knew this. This crowd was far too uptight. I was unfamiliar with this terrain. In Manchester I had been amongst a few uptight crowds at The Deaf Institute, but even that 'too cool for music' crowd let go when fellow lo-fi-ers The Black Lips came to town. As I recall there was even a scuffle between crowd and bouncer as he repeatedly threw people off the stage. He got his comeuppance. Here at The Garage in London, there was perhaps only one guy truly free from himself, and the bouncer told him to calm down. What is going on? Ariel questioned us, "What are you all? Nazis?" Then told us to be happy. He shouldn't have had to do that. Dispute our anger, Lucy and I just about managed to curb our urge to 'fuck shit up' and just let go. We attempted to start some kind of current through the crowd but the electricity just wasn't there. We continued. Headbanging our way through the encore of "Butt House Blondies" and raising our arms during the more airy moments of "Little Wig". All in all we were more than a little bemused. This would have been one of the greatest gigs I'd ever attended if the crowd had been a little more loose. What was wrong? Did the snogging of numerous girls up front make people uptight? Surely not in this age, amongst this crowd of (ahem) 'hip' kids. Did people not know the music well enough, were they there simply to look cool? Well maybe but even so, the music is catchy enough to dance to, and Ariel was lively enough to feed off. Were people too concerned with how they look/are going to look once they have a sweat on? Most likely. Or is this just what I should expect from all future gigs in London town? I sincerely hope not.
Ariel Pink, you were awesome tonight. London, you were the biggest disappointment imaginable, I had no idea the audience as a whole could kill so many good vibes - nice one. Future advise to Ariel Pink, next time you come to England, play the north. They'll treat you good there. London, come on, let go. Tomorrow I will attend the more intimate Ariel Pink show - I expect better things from the crowd, and some rock star kisses. (P.S tweets popping up saying he killedit tonight, true, but crowd, you really quite literally did kill it...)