Archive for the ‘Pinegrove’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: PINEGROVE-Live at the Newport Folk Festival (July 30, 2017).

Every year, NPR goes to the Newport Folk Festival so we don’t have to.  A little while afterwards, they post some streams of the shows (you used to be able to download them, but now it’s just a stream).  Here’s a link to the Pinegrove set; stream it while it’s still active.

I was pretty excited to hear what Pinegrove did at a big venue like this.  And, true to form, they sound great and are kind and generous to the people helping them out as well as all the fans who are there: “thanks for taking a chance on us.”

What’s particularly fun about Pinegrove is that their songs are mostly pretty short–but they feel fully complete.  But that means you can get 11 songs in a 45 minute set.

The band is in the process of writing and recording new music but this set is all older stuff (1/2 from Cardinal and the rest older).  But this is such a clear recording (with occasionally pops from the bass), that it’s great to be able to hear these songs live and to hear what they do differently with them.

The first song, “Old Friends,” Evan Stephens Hall seems a little less voice-cracking than usual (as if he’s trying to sing pretty for the Festival), but when he gets into the middle of “Aphasia” he sings “But if I don’t have you by me then I’ll go underground” with reckless abandon and the crowd goes nuts.

To me the most notable difference in these songs is the louder harmony vocals of Nandi Rose Plunkett.  And they sound terrific (Plunkett has her own band Half Waif who I’ve been interested in seeing, although i hope it doesn’t distract her from Pinegrove).

They run through several of the songs and they all sound great–the band really transcends when they play live. (and the rabid fans certainly help).

He introduces the band and has a problem getting Plunkett’s name out (I’ve got an avocado in my mouth).  Then he runs through everyone else: Samuel Skinner on guitar, Joshua Fairbanks Marre on the guitar and vocals, Adan Carlo on the bass guitar, Zachary Levine on the drum kit and vocals (he gets a big response).  And then they introduce Lincoln their newly acquired trusty stuffed sloth.

They dedicate “Angelina” to Lincoln, (he ends by saying “just a tiny little song”)

Okay we’re gonna quickly play two more songs.  After a quick “The Metronome” Hall introduces the final song by saying

Most of these songs are about love whether it be romantic, platonic, or familial and when they began they were about how to love the people we knew the best we could, but a more important initiative is loving the people we don’t know as well as we can.  It’s a localized sentiment but also a very public sentiment.

This works as a wonderful introduction to “New Friends” which sounds tremendous with all of the harmony vocals firing on all cylinders.

[READ: June 20, 2017] “Brush Clearing with the Teen-Age Boys in Arkansas”

This issue has a section of essays called “On the Job,” with essays about working written by several different authors.

Richard Ford writes of working in the summer of 1967.  He worked for the Neighborhood Youth Corps in Little Rock.  It was not a job he wanted, just one he could get.  He had always had jobs and wasn’t about to not have one during the summer while living with his mother.

So he enrolled in this program which “summons images of clean cut boys standing at attention, but was really about low income (black) kids getting work experience.”  And he realizes now it was designed to keep them in school and out of the State’s hair. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: June 1, 2017] Kevin Devine

I had heard of Kevin Devine–and his Goddamn Band–but hadn’t actually heard his music.  I knew that he recently toured with Pinegrove as support–a show I wish I’d seen!  But here he was solo.

Devine sang a dozen or so songs.  Each one was catchy and not based on simple chord sequences.  But mostly the focus was on the words.  And I really liked his delivery–powerful and always spot on.  It worked perfectly for a solo acoustic set but i could see it working just as well for a rocking band.

I can’t find a setlist on line, and I don’t know the names of many of his songs, so I don’t have much more to fill in here.

I recall him saying that one of the songs was the title rack of his new album Instigator.  I know he also played at least one song from his band Bad Books. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PINEGROVE-Tiny Desk Concert #582 (December 2, 2016).

I recently saw Pinegrove live and it was a great experience.  Although it was only a few months after this Tiny Desk Concert, it’s pretty amazing how different the band sounded during these two shows.

Pinegrove are sometimes referred to as having a country flair.  And they certainly do here (they really didn’t when I saw them–they rocked pretty loud and hard).  For this set, the guitar is often slide, the banjo is prominent and the songs are quieter.

But rather than countryside (which would not have attracted me at all), I like the term that the blurb uses:

The New Jersey group’s sound feels fresh and scrappy at the same time.

Evan Stephens Hall and drummer Zack Levine, who’ve been friends since they were 7, form the core of Pinegrove: Evan Stephens Hall (vocals, guitar); Nandi Rose Plunkett (keyboard, vocals); Zack Levine (drums, vocals); Adan Feliciano (bass); Sam Skinner (banjo, guitar); Josh Marre (guitar, vocals).  I was delighted to hear that (Hall and Levine’s dads play music together, too (in a band called Julie’s Party)).

It’s interesting that they play two older songs and only two from Cardinal, the album that was garnering most of their attention.  The first two are earlier tracks

“Need” is a slow folkie song that begins quietly but after a minute bursts into a wonderful full band sound (they sounded really full when I saw them too).  Many of the Pinegrove song are short–this one is only 2 minutes.  “Angelina” is a pretty rocking song (live it was a really rocking).  It appears to have been a new song recorded for their release of their collected works.  Here its a solid catchy song but is again only a minute and half long–barely getting started when it ends.

There’s a strange edit cut after this song before “Old Friends” starts–not sure what it means (what did they cut?)  But they launch right into “Old Friends” and its notable opening.  This snog is just outstanding the way it feel like there’s no real melody in the beginning, but it’s all there and quite subtle.  And then there’s the powerful chorus where it all comes together.  This version is really quite different–prominent banjo, a slide on the acoustic guitar and outstanding backing vocals.  They even do a cool thing with the ‘as if I needed a reminder’ section in which it goes an octave up–which I like quite a lot.  “Waveform” is a slower song on Cardinal (and seems even slower here–I love how they play off their surroundings).  The harmonies are really great on this one.

The whole set is a great introduction to the band, although seeing them live is a very different experience again.

[READ: June 20, 2016] Awkward

Sarah brought this book home as well and it looked fun.  And so it proved to be.

The title is a little overused at this point but it proves to be rather accurate for the story.  It follows Penelope (Peppi for short) as she starts her first day at a new school.  While in the hallway, she trips over her own feet in front of just about everyone.  There is much laughter until a boy comes over to help her.  But as soon as he does there is even more laughter as the mean boys chant that “Nerder found a new girlfriend.”

She was utterly humiliated and acted out in the worst way possible–she got mad at the boy who helped her.  She pushed him away and shouted Leave Me Alone!  And as she looked back she says “I will never forget the look on his face.”

The story quickly jumps to weeks later.  She has some friends n the art club, where she feels very comfortable, but she is still really sorry about what she did to this boy.  She wants to say she’s sorry to him, but she can’t bring herself to do it. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 28, 2017] Pinegrove

I first heard Pinegrove on NPR and then I saw their Tiny Desk Concert.  I really liked them and when they announced that sales of their online music would send all proceeds to Planned Parenthood, I knew I had to buy their tunes.  I was also swayed by the fact that they are from Montclair, NJ, a town not to far from where I grew up.

They have been getting fairly popular as of late which I think is wonderful.  And I hope that they continue to thrive and get bigger and bigger.  So that when they are opening for someone at Madison Square Garden, I can say I saw them in a church basement with 600 other people (tickets sold out pretty quickly and I saw people were offering their first-born children for a ticket).

I have never been to a concert where the audience knew and loudly sang every word to nearly every song.  By my reckoning, everyone knew every word to every song on Cardinal, their full length debut.  There are 8 songs on it and the band played 7 of them–not in order–during their 16 song set.  In fact when they opened the show with “Old Friends” the first song on the disc, the room erupted singing along to every word.  And since it was such a small place–with particularly low ceilings–it was the loudest singalong I’ve ever heard.  Check out these clips from “Cadmium.”  It was very cool.

Even more cool was how great the band sounded.  I mentioned before how great the sound was. I want to say it sounded great for a church basement but it was great for almost any room–the band sounded big and loud and perfect.  And that’s good because Sarah and I were simply incapable of pushing our way closer to the stage. It was packed, it was 95 degrees in there and while we did buy some water bottles we were not willing to fight the crowd to get closer.  That means that I never really saw the band.  I did see singer Evan Stephens Hall a  few times, and when I held my camera up (there was literally no one behind me) I was able to see more of the band.  That plus the dark panelled room did not encourage good photos.

I was honestly surprised at how hard it was to see the stage given how small the place was, but in fact the basement was pretty long, so I guess it makes sense.

But the overall vibe was so great, it didn’t matter.  There were people in the back by us dancing, there were a few guys singing a long so loud and emphatically pumping their fists to the words.  I was shocked at how much people love this band who literally have one 30 minute album and a new collection of all their old stuff as recorded output (between the 2 discs it’s a total of 29 songs).  It was really a great experience.

And Hall mentioned a few times how unique this was and how memorable the venue was and how the band was clearly excited by how into it we were.  And I can’t help but thing the fed off of that.

For an encore, they joked that they would walk over there for about ten seconds (they had an 11 o’clock curfew and finished with a couple minutes to spare).  Hall talked about the People’s Climate March in DC that the band was going to the next day (and playing in DC that night).

And they encored with “Recycling” (how many songs mention ocelots?) and a totally crowd singing along version of “New Friends.”

I’m told that the band often hangs around and chats and takes pictures, but it was so hot we could not wait to get out of there.  And after the show we went to Shoo Fry for poutine, which was delicious.

I certainly hope they come to another local venue (they’ve been to Philly 3 times in a year).  I’d love it if it was a nice Jersey venue, mind you.  But I would absolutely see them again, hopefully in a venue where I can actually see them!


  1. Old Friends*
  2. Aphasia*
  3. Visiting*
  4. Over My Shoulder
  5. V
  6. Waveform
  7. Angelina
  8. Easy Enough
  9. Cadmium*
  10. Size of the Moon*
  11. Paterson + Leo
  12. Problems
  13. Need 2
  14. The Metronome
  15. Recycling
  16. New Friends*

*from Cardinal


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[ATTENDED: April 28, 2017] Hovvdy

I thought that I had heard of Hovvdy (that’s 2 v’s but pronounced “Howdy”), but it’s possible I was thinking of other bands with 2 Vs in their name.  But when I looked up information about this concert, I saw that a lot of people were excited to see them (and that their latest album had been reviewed (positively) by Pitchfork.

We waited in the stifling heart for them to go on–and really should have sacrificed our spot to get water (only $1/bottle a the door!).  Unlike a more “polished” show, where you know that bands will take forever in between sets, this seemed like it would be a pretty quick turn around–the band even came out right away to set up.

Although when all was said and done it was nearly 30 minutes by the time Hovvdy went on.  And boy, did I wish we had taken advantage of the First Unitarian Church’s very generous reentry policy.  Because man, was it hot.  Like unpleasantly hot.

So we stood and sweated and waited for Hovvdy (we didn’t want to give up our semi-decent spot–although truth be told, it was hard to see from just about anywhere).

When the band started I was surprised by how great it sounded.  Birdwing sounded fine, but they must not have been hooked up to the PA, because when Hovvdy’s drummer hit a drum, it was like going from mono to Dolby.

Charlie Martin and Will Taylor are the main force behind Hovvdy (not sure who is who).  They record as a duo.  Each guy sang and played guitar.  From what I can tell Hannah Read (from Lomelda) was on bass.  [Lomelda opened for the show instead of Birdwing in NYC].  And I can’t find the drummer’s name (although all reviews of the band mention that Martin and Taylor were both drummers before they started playing songs on guitar, so I’ll mention it too).

Hovvdy played a kind of noisy lo-fi rock (I see they call it pillowcore).  Both singers’ voices and musical styles were fairly different which kept the music constantly shifting. The rhythm section kept the groove nicely while the two guys (split far apart on the stage) did their thing–sometimes singing backing vocal for the other one.

I found pretty much all of their songs to be catchy–catchy enough to grab their CD on the way out (which is a bit lower key than their live show).  The CD, Taster, had apparently just been released that day (it was download-only previously).

I have no idea what their setlist was as I can;’t find it anywhere, although evidently many of the songs were from Taster.

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[ATTENDED: April 28, 2017] Birdwing

Birdwing opened the show for Hovvdy and Pinegrove.  I wasn’t familiar with their music, but I had listened to a few songs on bandcamp and I was interested to see them live.

This concert was being held at the First Unitarian Church in Philly, which I’d never been to.  I had heard a lot about this venue and the really legendary bands that have played there (usually a few years before becoming legendary).  I was under the impression that the venue’s capacity was like 100 people, but that is clearly not true.  One source suggests that it is closer to 600. So I was surprised by just how large the basement proved to be.

But the one thing that I had heard for sure was that it was hot.  And holy cow was it ever hot.

We went on a mild April evening (temp low 70s) and we arrived a few minutes before Birdwing went on.  By the time they started we were both wet from sweat.  There is virtually no air circulation (the ceiling fans may have been spinning only because of people fanning themselves). (more…)

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