music journalist since 1992 | educator since 2004 | podcaster since 2020 | Iranian American since birth
The Big Pink and A Place To Bury Strangers live in Los Angeles at the El Rey Theatre on March 9, 2010, reviewed for Venus Zine:
The Big Pink and A Place To Bury Strangers Live
The Big Pink find A Place to Bury Strangers in noise in L.A.
March 9, 2010, at the El Rey Theatre
By Lily Moayeri
Published: March 12th, 2010 | 12:01pm
March is always a gig-filled time in Los Angeles—a happy coincidence due to the overflow from the South By Southwest Conference and Festival in Austin, Texas. The downside of this occurrence, however, is that there are often two good shows on the opposite ends of town or, as was the case at the El Rey Theatre recently, an overwhelming four-plus bands on one bill.
The two main attractions, the Big Pink and A Place to Bury Strangers, occupy opposite ends of the shoegazer spectrum: the former, melodic and sing-along-y; the latter, full of hiss and fuzz. While both groups are Black Rebel Motorcycle Club prototypes, they each offer an interpretation of an unrelenting wall of noise in their own, unique way.
For three full songs, A Place to Bury Strangers blanketed the stage in utter darkness that was only intermittently broken with puffs of smoke and flashes of light beamed from the stage floor. Intentionally keeping their sound muffled, the band’s focus was on layers of sound and crackles of feedback. Meanwhile, keeping the bass and the beats at their heaviest, the group’s taut renditions of tracks “In Your Heart” and “Half Awake,” were delivered with an intensity that required the audience to take breathing breaks if not also to plug their ears from the pure sonic assault. The light show transformed the set into a sort of wet dance sequence a la Flashdance, which added temporary blindness to the temporary deafness. In a word, brief is better with APTBS.
Shortly after, the venue emptied out significantly before the Big Pink took the stage. This duo, who bring three additional members for live performances, is obsessed with love. But as is witnessed on their debut album, A Brief History Of Love (4AD), they sound really upset about it. Their sappy sentiments were translated through harsh, aggressive instrumentation and positively miserable vocals, such as on the title track and a number called “Velvet”. In contrast, the banter in between tracks was absolutely bubbly and perky and caused a bit of confusion in the mood.
The problem was, that after APTBS’ exhaustive set, there was very little energy left for The Big Pink’s steady and balanced performance. Still, the disparity of APTBS and The Big Pink makes their live combination an even experience, like taking a few drops of cream into your very dark, very bitter coffee.