Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Dune Rats, Magic Spells @ The Zoo, Brisbane (08/03/12)

Ariel Pink presents himself as the kind of person who could solve a Rubik’s cube in less than sixty seconds, but probably lives with his parents and eats cereal straight out of the box (think James Franco in Pineapple Express wearing Paisley pyjama pants). This might have been his lifestyle back in 2004 when he popped up on Animal Collective’s Paw Tracks record label with the album The Doldrums, and in the following years when he became known around the interwebs as a strange but brilliant musical recluse who obsessively recorded hundreds of trippy, lo-fi jams in his bedroom. Things changed in 2010 when he brought together an eclectic bunch of working musicians to form Haunted Graffiti, resulting in the critically adored album Before Today. Ariel Pink’s live shows have frequently been met with extremely varied reviews from fans and curious onlookers, but nonetheless they all gathered at The Zoo in Fortitude Valley on a stinking hot Thursday night to watch the music, and the mystery unfold.

A tiny crowd of around thirty people was all that gathered to catch home town band Magic Spells play the opening set, but if the five-piece were at all fazed they hid it amazingly well under many layers of rich, beautifully crafted seventies inspired rock. Don’t be fooled; Magic Spells’ set made it clear that they aren’t interested in getting lost in the current influx of nostalgia obsessed rock and roll bands. They started off sweetly with an enjoyable array of soft, folk tinged melodies before lead singer Kitty Hart’s soaring vocal harmonies elevated the power of the music to breathtaking heights. The girls ate up every moment they had on stage, playing their instruments with such power and passion that the incredibly delicate hooks that textured each song were made all the more compelling. A slow, brooding cover of House of the Rising Sun was particularly emotive, thanks in equal parts to the combination of menacing guitars and Hart’s haunting vocals. Current single Empress and Chariot ended the set on a soaring high that surely left those who had just turned up wondering what they missed out on.

Fellow Brisbane band Dune Rats are no strangers to warming up a crowd, having spent the last few months opening for acts like Best Coast and The Drums. They were clearly no strangers to the crowd either, who happily reciprocated the energy oozing from the scruffy, laid back three-piece. Dune Rats know exactly how to make fresh and appealing surfer rock, and their whole set felt effortlessly thrown together. Lively tunes Colour Television and the single Pogo went off without a hitch, leaving the crowd perfectly fired up for the main event.

Ariel Pink and his band clearly felt no need to make a dramatic entrance, instead casually wandering on stage and doing their own sound check. But once the thunderous clash of bass, guitars, synths, keys, deafening drums and Ariel Pink’s screeching vocals exploded the drama made its’ presence known. The band kicked off with an offering of older songs such as the slow burning Envelopes Another Day, which showed off an incredible versatility in the band’s already heavily diverse sound. The set was grounded mostly in swelling psychadelia intertwined with a dark take on classic eighties electro pop. But no matter how far the music around him reached, Ariel Pink’s hyperactive showman antics, which involved both dancing and crawling around the stage, always led him one step further. On a number of songs he read the lyrics off of a piece of paper, but rather than feeling lazy or contrived, it felt perfectly suited to the strangely enticing journey he was taking us on.

Midway through the set shifted from an elongated jam session into a handful of songs from Before Today, much to the delight of the spaced out crowd. Hot Body Rub and Fright Night both garnered huge, almost grateful responses, as did the beautifully crafted single Round and Round. A mesmerizingly smooth tune in its’ own right, the song held an amazing presence in its’ live incarnation, evoked by its’ swirling bass hook and sweet lyrical melody. Despite its’ lengthy duration the song never dipped in momentum as it subtly transformed into an warm and enthralling sing-a-long warranting its’ status as an indie classic.

The band left the stage in a darkened entanglement of feedback and dramatic, drawn out sci-fi inspired sound effects before returning moments later for their encore, and while everything still felt completely frenzied and out of control, all the elements somehow sounded so precisely and delicately assembled, with each layer seeping into the driving melody of the music. The only reoccurring theme of the show was Ariel Pink’s wild imagination and flair for turning noise into a wonderful range of rich and evoking melodic opus’s. Every song felt like an ode to what we imagined the future would look like when we were growing up, and luckily Ariel Pink seems to still be dreaming.