Ah, twee pop. It’s sweet, it’s heart-on-your-sleeve sincere, and it’s the stuff that most “serious rock musicians” can’t stomach to save their lives. If such is your stance, then chances are you were nowhere near Wednesday’s five-band-strong lineup at SOhO, which included everything from the hyper-adorableness of Oxnard’s Avocadoes, Sea Lions, and Sweater Girls to the noisy post-punk of L.A.’s Weekend. And, of course, New Yorkers The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, who successfully bridged the gaps among them all to make for a darn enjoyable evening.
Fourth in the mix, Weekend provided the biggest surprise of the night, with a reverb-filled set of noise and buried-in-the-mix vocals that screamed of the punk-meets-shoegaze movement currently rooted in the Los Angeles rock scene (e.g., No Age). Still, the energy levels were too low, and the guitars just a touch too loud, to make the kind of impact that music like this demands.
Despite the late school-night hour, Pains made up for the wait with a buoyant and in-your-face set that mixed synthy post-punk with haunting pop rock to solid effect. The My Bloody Valentine references rang true on cuts like “Young Adult Friction” and “Say No To Love,” but the songs never fell short of their mark, acting as homage instead of silly rip-offs. Elsewhere, tracks like “Heart in Your Heartbreak” and “A Teenager in Love” were lovingly drenched in new-wave nostalgia and highlighted the playfulness between frontman Kip Berman and vocalist/keyboardist Peggy Wang.
Still, the one thing that was ultimately left lacking in Wednesday night’s rapid-fire succession of setups and takedowns was the enthusiasm, which Berman helped to make up for in his own saccharine-sweet kind of way. With a confident but coy speaking voice, he quietly thanked his openers not from his perspective as the show’s headliner, but rather as a fan. The earnestness of it all was enough to make you giggle—then marvel at the kindhearted little community that these guys have built, one twee band at a time.