all words: Nina Slesinger
all photos: Joel Mittleman from last time
At my high school, I helped organize bimonthly concerts, called Coffeehouses, where all the school bands would come and play for charity. Every show would yield different bands, ranging from groups in skinny ties covering the Beatles to acoustic duos featuring that football player you never knew could sing. Last month was the “Senior Showcase,” where all the graduating seniors could play mini-sets with their bands. It was a fast-paced, fun show with one of the biggest crowds we’d ever had. There was lots of singing along, spontaneous dancing and a general feel-good mood. Pictures were taken, and hugs were everywhere.
Wednesday night’s Pains of Being Pure at Heart/Surfer Blood/Hooray for Earth show at the Black Cat reminded me of that last Coffeehouse. It was the final show for the tour, which was made apparent not only by the constant verbal reminders, but by the sing-along, multi-band covers, the onstage hugging and the go-for-broke-it’s-summer! attitude.
Hooray for Earth was a fitting opener for the show. They played a tight, engaging set of guitar and synth based pop songs. I couldn’t help but notice how the echoing vocals and clap-ready percussion reminded me of Surfer Blood. Their songs were somewhat darker, but the group definitely fulfilled its role of warming up the crowd.
Surfer Blood was next. In another move that made me think of Coffeehouse, none of the band members, save for mustachioed percussionist, looked a touch over eighteen. They were dressed in t-shirts and flannel, with short haircuts and big smiles. There was banter, or at least a song introduction between every song.
The sold-out crowd cheered for everything, shouted requests and pumped their fists to the charging riffs of tunes like set opener “Fast Jabroni.” Both “Take It Easy” and “Harmonix” (which the bass player dubbed their “dark and brooding song”) ended with danceable jams. Before launching into what is probably one of the best summer songs ever, “Swim,” lead singer JP announced that this song would hopefully remove any “negative energy” we felt. For me at least, by the time they played “Swim,” any traces of negative energy I had in me had floated away. Surfer Blood’s vibe was just so friendly and happy, you couldn’t help but have a good time. They were tight enough to sound good but sloppy enough to still seem like your best friends playing in a basement. JP told the crowd that the tour, for him, had been extremely cathartic, and then proceeded to call the members of the Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Hooray for Earth on stage for a round of hugs. He then declared, “This shit right here? This is fucking real.” It was a sweet moment. The band ended with “Catholic Pagans,” but then in a move of “Hey it’s the last show of the tour, let’s have fun!” they invited Peggy of POBPAH on stage to help sing Weezer’s “Undone (The Sweater Song).” It seemed like everyone in the club knew the words, and no one hesitated to raise a beer and yell along.
Next up were the Pains of Being Pure at Heart. They were as adorable as their band time and song titles would suggest. The show started with lead singer Kip Berman alone on stage, crooning “Contender” over his fuzzy electric guitar strums. As he finished that song and the rest of the band took the stage, he announced, in all of his wide-eyed, skinny glory, “I think this is the night that it’s really gonna happen.” Who knows what he meant by that, but after Surfer Blood’s set, I felt like I agreed. Next the group played “Come Saturday” and the entire audience began to sway and smile. With “Young Adult Friction,” the swaying turned into light head-bopping. Then, Kip introduced the new(ish) single, “Say No To Love,” and told us that after, they would play “more songs with ‘love’ in the title.” The group lived up to the promise by playing “A Teenager in Love” and “This Love Is Fucking Right!” in succession. At times, the Pains’ set felt a bit repetitive (after all, they played three songs with “love” in the title in a row) due to all the fuzz and washed out vocals, but it never lost the joyful sheen. It was fun from top to bottom. They closed their set with “Everything With You,” but returned shortly to the stage with members of Hooray for Earth and Surfer Blood. Peggy announced the bands as Hooray for Bros, Surfer Bros, and the Pains of Being Bro at Heart before launching into the most charming and adorable rendition of “Be My Baby,” featuring multiple tambourine players and the entire audience on back-up vocals. It was the perfect way to end the sweet, summery night and what must’ve been a memorable tour.
I imagine that everyone went home from the Black Cat and immediately texted their crushes to make plans for the summer. What a nice night.