Photo by Shervin Lainez
It’s awkward when you lose half your band to BuzzFeed. But if you’re the Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s Kip Berman, you soldier on. You call on old pals, like once and future Pain Christoph Hochheim, and recruit new ones, like Jen Goma of a Sunny Day in Glasgow. You emphasize the communal nature of the music, and you revel in the reverb.
So it went at the Troubadour in West Hollywood on May 7 as POBPAH energized indie pop fans ahead of their new release, Days of Abandon (Yebo). Any misgivings about the album’s more mellow sonics faded away as the live band (also interspersed with members of the U.K.’s Fear of Men) kept the fervor going. Fresh tracks like “Eurydice” – which is what Belle & Sebastian would probably sound like after dropping acid – inspired some playful slam dancing in the packed crowd.
Pains’ aural tendencies might suggest that songwriter Berman is a shy gent, but that assumption melts when he takes the stage. He perspires every note, bobbing and thrusting as though he were fronting a Warped Tour group. Alongside him, Goma aped his energy, opting for confidence where the lyrics she sang might call for a more coquettish delivery. Good vibes glowed from the stage and filtered to the audience, especially when the venue’s disco ball spun in time to the twinkling songs.
With POBPAH, you are literally the company you keep. Hochheim and his drummer brother, Anton, made up two-thirds of the night’s first performers, Ablebody. Their shoegazing shuffle was a welcome throwback to the 4AD era. In his oversized striped shirt and shaggy haircut, Christoph could have been mistaken for a young Kevin Shields.
Fear of Men leaned toward Vivian Girls territory, but with cleaner vocals and instrumentation. Singer/guitarist Jessica Weiss emoted equally with her mouth and her guitar; the periwinkle and sand-colored instrument rotating like the infinity symbol throughout the set. To her right, Daniel Falvey treated his guitar like a baby bouncing on his knee.
Ultimately, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart is Kip Berman’s baby, but he knows it takes a village to raise a healthy one. With Ablebody and Fear of Men pitching in with POBPAH’s concerts, the project is taking on a whole new life. It’s all the more richer for it.