Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pinback in Denver

Ogden Theatre marquee with gibbous moonNan and I were in Denver for the Pinback concert at the Ogden Theatre on Friday night. If you're not familiar, Pinback is a San Diego based band fronted by Rob Crow and Zach Smith. Their music is unlike anything else I've heard, a catchy multi-layered mix of guitar, bass and keyboard melodies that are constantly trading leads. The tempo is usually extremely fast, driven by Zach's amazing bass playing, which reminds me of Peter Hook from New Order. Zach and guitarist Rob both sing, sometimes exchanging leads and sometimes harmonizing.

Pinback is another band that was introduced to me by my friend, Dave Beckwith. He included "Boo", a track off their 2001 album, "Blue Screen Life", in a mix CD he gave me in 2004. The song was so compelling, to use Dave's expression, that I soon bought the CD and then every other CD I could find by the band. If you're looking for a new sound, try "Blue Screen Life". You'll be glad you did.

Back to our concert evening. Nan and I took a taxi from our downtown hotel to the City Grille on Colfax for dinner. They have great cheap food and they're only a few blocks from both the Ogden and the Fillmore. We ate there a couple of years ago before the Snow Patrol concert at the Fillmore and were eager to go back. All the booths were taken, so we ate at the bar while being entertained by Suzy, one of the sassiest bartenders we've ever met. At one point, a big guy walked past us with long hair, a huge beard and a black t-shirt showing the human skeleton from neck to pelvis on the front and back. I thought he looked like the version of Rob Crow I had seen in Pinback's video of "From Nothing to Nowhere", off their new album, "Autumn of the Seraphs". But I didn't say anything to Nan until we got to the Ogden and the same guy came out before the show and invited audience members up on stage to sing karaoke with him. So it was indeed Rob Crow. Now I wish I had said something to him at the restaurant.

After the karaoke ended, the opening act, Joe Jack Talcum, took the stage. It was just Joe and his acoustic guitar singing folksy songs with off-the-wall lyrics, like a raunchier version of Loudon Wainwright. Two young girls had done a karaoke version of the Dead Milkmen song, "Punk Rock Girl", so Joe apologized for the repeat before he launched into his own energetic rendition. As he was winding down his set, the theatre started filling up, and we were happy to see that we were not the only Pinback fans in Colorado. By the time the band came on stage, it was wall to wall.

Pinback at the Ogden Theatre in Denver playing 'Penelope'One of the things about Pinback's sound is that it all tends to blend together, so I couldn't tell you for sure what the first song was, but I think it was "Loro", off their 1999 self-titled first album. There wasn't much of a light show, but each of their songs was accompanied by images on a large screen. I smiled to see clips from the 1974 John Carpenter film, "Dark Star", featuring a character named Sgt. Pinback, from whom the band took its name. Other images featured snippets of lyrics, like the ones in the photo: "Don't want to see you floating upside down", from the song, "Penelope", which as near as I can guess is a song about a goldfish named Penelope. But that's one of the intriguing things about Pinback: the lyrics are difficult to understand if you think about them too hard. It's more enjoyable to relax and let the songs wash over you, creating more of a mood than a mental image. My only regret is that they didn't play "Concrete Seconds", off "Blue Screen Life". That song has been a favorite of mine for years. Maybe next time.

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