Upon entering the Regent a voice on the PA is chanting, “Only men fall in love. Only men fall in love…” This obscure piece of new wave seemed fitting for a pre-Pink playlist; an esoteric Home Services track off of a 1981 single complete with phallical imagery and a strange, hypnotic, male-centric refrain that skirts with chauvinism but is actually homoerotic. Once you think you’ve figured him out he swerves in another direction. And yet, for someone as delightfully weird and provocative as Ariel Pink has become, his show was surprisingly tame. For all of the trending internet hubbub the question remains, how do you take a meme on tour?
It’s certainly not the album’s fault. Pom Pom is far and away Pink’s most successful record to date, and with good reason. The songs are exclusively Pink’s version of pop. It’s his Nothing Was The Same, the Ariel Pinkiest Ariel Pink album he could have made. There are catchy hooks, descriptive and jarring lyrical content as well as sweet anthemic slow burners. There are voice messages, taco trucks, strip clubs, dirty old perverts, and a transparent self-awareness of technological self destruction. Couple that with a no-holds-barred media onslaught of ‘controversial’ opinions and a weak music year: BOOM, great success.
It goes without saying that throughout his set these songs were played well. But is that what you want to hear? The songs were ‘played well’ — how exciting. Yes, the sound was fine (though “Not Enough Violence” needed a bit more low end.) The crowd was definitely down, especially for “Picture Me Gone” which is probably my Yell-A-Long of the year; seriously, I can’t wait to see a festival crowd put their lighters up for that one.
But, this is the guy that famously refused to perform at Coachella (a move that seems prophetic in a post-Death Grips musical landscape.)
This is the dude that brought out heavily bearded R.R. Martin doppelgangers to yell into microphones.
This is the guy that couldn’t find a fuck to give if he were sprawled out atop a pillow fort in a Ugandan brothel.
This is Ariel Pink – he is a caricature, a Looney Toon. (Fucking, MIKE TYSON has a cartoon series; do you have any idea how amazing an Ariel Pink cartoon would be?)
That is what makes him so fun. He is a live-action Bugs Bunny. The fact that his music is actually really great is a plus. It has allowed him to become something even larger than that: a compelling litmus test of societal incongruence. So why is his live show so, meh?
It’s probably my fault, the Internet’s too. Like, what am I expecting? Do I want him to wave an ISIS banner to be edgy or something? If he wore a dress and sang into a dildo, would that be Pitchfork Headline worthy? When your whole character is an Andy Kaufman-esque brilliant performance, how can u possibly make your actual show worthy of the caricature you’ve created and continue to capitalize on?
You can’t. Which may explain why Pink seems to have doubled down. He came out, performed his songs, said thank you and bounced. If anything, the blandness is the ultimate statement of postmodern ennui. He is the only guy who gets how ironic our whole pre-post apocalypse society is. It’s not that his show isn’t mind blowing enough, it’s that to be mind blowing enough would mean that Ariel Pink doesn’t even exist.
Words: Ziv Biton
Photography: Jazz Shademan