The Pains of Being Pure at Heart with The Craft Spells and Sacred Spirits : Southgate House : August 4

Though I wish I could say that I was approaching this show with complete no expectations but that would just not be true.  Since discovering The Pains of Being Pure at Heart earlier in the year I have fallen head over heels for their dreamy style of indie-pop, and since the beginning of summer their album Belong has been in non-stop rotation.  So to say I was excited to finally see them live was an understatement – I was like a kid on Christmas.

That being said however, it was surprising to find that the show was not in the Parlour upstairs as originally thought, but in the ballroom of the Southgate House, a venue usually reserved for larger national acts.  This both excited and worried me.  I was happy for the band that they had amassed such a following that they needed more space, but concerned as I had seen many bands fail in the ballroom, swallowed whole by such a large room.

Because of our tardiness, Sacred Spirits were finishing up their set just when we arrived.  This is the second time I have missed them due to my own lateness, but am happy to report that from what I did get to hear I will certainly be making an effort to see them in the near future.  At this point, the ballroom was still relatively empty with most people sitting at tables with their drinks, and I hoped that as the night progressed things would get a bit livelier.

The Craft Spells, a pop outfit from Seattle were slated next.  I was excited to see them , but not really sure what to expect.  Their album Idle Labor had lived in my iTunes only having been listened to a couple times.  However, whatever spark I had missed during the band’s bedroom recording session was not lost on me during their live set.  They took the stage with energy and enthusiasm, like they really were just happy to be there.  I took immediately to their 80’s revival sound with it reminiscent of classic post-punk bands like Echo & The Bunnymen, Joy Division, and The  Psychedelic Furs.  Even though there are quite a few bands at the moment trying to bring the new wave sound back, The Craft Spells offer up songs that are sweet, genuine, and well-crafted.  Tracks like “After the Moment” and “Party Talk” had everyone moving and as I looked around the ballroom, everyone seemed to have been swept up by their infectious synth and guitar pop.  It was quite the performance – they could have easily been the headliners.  I more or less fell in love with The Craft Spells that night.

Then The Pains took the stage.  Not even offering a chance to recover from the jubilation from the Craft Spells’ set, they opened strong with “Belong”, the title track from their new LP.  When the brittle guitar rang through the now much larger crowd it was like a wave a of happy took over the room.  Kip Berman’s airy vocals were slightly more gritty live, and the guitar distortion a bit heavier lending as a nice contrast the The Pains’ usual angelic innocence.  They weaved in and out of some of the best tracks off both albums like “Heart in Your Heartbreak” and “Young Adult Friction” making them sound even brighter and more full of life.  The Pains took the crowd through a story of love and heartache and finding your own band of misfits like the music equivalent of a John Hughes movie à la Sixteen Candles or Pretty in Pink.  Even after an encore, the show felt like it ended to soon, as if time had stood still while they played.  Overall, the night was study in perfect indie-pop bliss.

by Adrienne Panveno

photos by Brian Daunt

videos by Julian Perry

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The Harlequins – Vitamin Water/Vice Magazine Party – July 14

Nothing like the promise of free booze to bring the kids out on a hot Thursday night, and boy howdy, were they out!  When my compatriot and I walked in the door of MOTR shortly before 10pm, we found ourselves 10 minutes shy of the end of open bar and it was complete pandemonium.  Four deep at the bar.  We elbowed our way to the front only to be told, “no more free drinks”.  I ordered anyway, paid for two beers and we immediately took off for the back patio.  Nearly missing being punched/kissed/thrown up on by a myriad of drunken hipsters within 10 feet, I was already stressed out and in need of a cigarette.

The patio was as packed as the bar, and it was at least twenty degrees hotter.  As I scanned the crowd, I can safely and respectfully say that this event brought out just about every scenester in Cincinnati.  It was kind of amazing.  On a Thursday no less.  We mingled and drank and became antsy as we were promised music.  Aside from the Harlequins, two other bands were set to perform, Sacred Spirits and The Weakness, but I saw them neither playing nor setting up.  But our anticipation was soon answered when the Harlequins finally went on shortly after eleven.  It felt like the crowd had thinned once the free alcohol ran out, but upon reentering the building, it was a pleasant surprise to find quite the packed house still, and The Harlequins giving the crazed rock and roll fans exactly what they came out for.

The thing about the Harlequins is that they are consistent – as in they consistently put on a good show.  Cincinnati has a lot of great bands, but some perhaps spend too much time on the extracurriculars of rock and roll preventing them from giving a satisfactory performance on a regular basis. The Harlequins never disappoint.  I have seen them play in some strange locations and over some rough sound systems, and they still manage to take it to town every single time.  They figure out a way to use these variables to their advantage, and make it part of the show.  The enthusiasm they have for their own music is contagious, and it is difficult to resist the groove.

Corporate sponsorship of shows in becoming unavoidable [the Vitamin Water branding was everywhere last night], but this time it was merely more than a small annoyance against the backdrop of a really great Summer party.  Sure, it was packed and hot, and sure, there were quite a few people who had obviously been over served during the open bar portion of the night,  but the music was loud and rocking, and people were in high spirits.  The city of Cincinnati was well represented, and Vice Magazine chose the right band to do it.

by Adrienne Panveno