Posted by: Jeff | June 17, 2010

Live Review: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart w/ Surfer Blood @ The Black Cat (06/16/10)

I arrived at the Black Cat just as openers Hooray for Earth were starting their last song of the evening.  I regret the late arrival – though I had never heard of them, their cheerful synth and all hands on deck style (they had three drummers!) was really festive and fun.  Probably a good festival band.

My familiarity with Surfer Blood is also pretty limited, though coming in I did know “Swim” pretty well.  They sounded great – an upbeat, vibrant set.  The band obviously has a ton of fun on stage, and it was entertaining to watch them strut and posture through a set that felt too short.  The sound, which would give the headlining band plenty of problems later on, was just fine, making it possible to hear every element in the mix pretty distinctly.  All of the bands in the show last night clearly love each other, and before closing their set, Surfer Blood called the members of Pains on stage for a hug – followed by a truly rousing rendition of Weezer’s “Undone (The Sweater Song)” – as one friend commented, I’m not sure that Weezer themselves could provoke a singalong quite that enthusiastic or loud these days.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are one of my favorite new bands – they’re fun, irreverent, and hearken back to an eighties new wave sound reminiscent of early New Order or The Smiths.  Their debut LP is absolutely solid, and though many songs do have awfully similar structure, the album makes for an enduring listen.

Live, however, some of that magic was missing.  The band sounded sharp enough, but something about the mix and the atmosphere was just off.  On record, Pains thrives in the treble – they have a great bassist and a good drummer, but it’s the treble guitar melodies and sparkly synths that really make the band.  Both of these elements – as well as the vocals – were largely inaudible most of the night.  On “Come Saturday” and “This Love is F***ing Right!” the guitar line on record is particularly intricate and pronounced.  Live, it floundered, lost in the backwash of the admittedly solid rhythm section.  The drums and bass gave away the melody and identity of most tracks, but the enjoyment was definitely curbed somewhat by an odd audio mix.  I don’t know if this was the result of band presets or just poor adjustment by the Black Cat folks, but it definitely did dampen the concert experience somewhat.  Many people left halfway through the headlining set, which, combined with a rather docile DC audience, was disappointing.

I’d really like to see the band again – they obviously had a lot of fun on stage, and if anything I gained a ton of appreciation for the bassist and drummer, who work a lot harder than I realized behind the scenes on the album.  This is a capable band that suffered from bad sound and a lackluster crowd.  Too bad.



  1. […] 10. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart/Surfer Blood 9. Florence + The Machine 8. Miike Snow 7. The New Pornographers 6. Beach House 5. The xx 4. Spoon 3. Thievery Corporation 2. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club 1. The National […]

  2. […] I caught this Florida act opening for The Pains of Being Pure Heart at a pretty small venue, and they far out-played the opener, displaying a pretty impressive range and catalog for their age.  And with both Fast and Slow […]

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