Pinegrove, Lomelda at Stereo, 24/2/17

The atmosphere in Stereo tonight is a heartwarming one, with both acts on the bill declaring each another their “favourite band”, in a gesture of special camaraderie.

When Lomelda, aka Hannah Read, takes to the stage, the already packed-out venue falls silent, melting into the stripped-back space rock, Lomelda’s voice oscillating between tenderness and moments of passionate warble held loosely over shimmers of electric guitar.

It’s a vocal style that works as well for Lomelda as it does for Angel Olsen; however, while Olsen plays with rockabily and attitude, Lomelda’s music is all minimal and melancholy, music to close your eyes to and lose yourself in daydreams.

There’s an atmosphere of lost summer evenings, forgotten conversations; of that deep longing that struggles for conclusion, as she sings on ‘Columbia River’: “Everybody tries to fall in love but I just keep making friends / When I sort through the stars at night I’m looking for some kind of sign of the end.”

Lomelda’s performance is strewn with these poignant moments, but inbetween the wistful delivery of her suburban pastorals, the little pauses to push up her glasses, she also maintains a genial stage presence, hyping up tonight’s headliners with her lovely Texan drawl.

Pinegrove take to the stage a member down, as Nandi Rose Plunkett (vocals/keyboard/percussion) is back in the US, busy with a new release from her other musical project, Half Waif.

Although there are moments where the ethereal layers of Plunkett’s backing harmonies are missed, what the band lack in keys they make up with sharp, keen guitars, constant stage banter and heaps of energy.

While Pinegrove have been described as emo revivalists, the emotions on display tonight surpass the languid, self-pitying reputation of the genre and instead are fiery and insistent.

Lead singer/guitarist Evans Stephens Hall has a voice that’s all salt’n’sweet: at times cheerfully melodic, coated in a sugary earnestness; elsewhere it breaks into abrasive wails that probably owe their debts as much to the howls of a sorrowful country singer as to Pete Wentz’s flair for crying mascara.

Of course, Pinegrove aren’t the first to mix traditional Americana and emo; Bright Eyes were blending sorrowful, kohl-hued bedroom acoustics with the twangling refrains of country songs back before it wasn’t a straightup insult to use the generic term.

However, while other bands pursue a more polished, often experimental take on folk, Pinegrove remain proudly commited to a strong indie-rock formula, with lush, playful instrumentals built over confident rhythms; this allows Hall’s sensitive and honest lyrics to avoid shmaltz and instead take vivid shape.

The band weave old and new favourites such as ‘Cadmium’, ‘Visiting’, ‘Then Again’ and ‘Old Friends’ from both Cardinal (2016) and Everything so Far (2015) alongside a handful of unreleased tracks – provisionally titled ‘Offer’ and ‘Easy Enough’ – which offer further proof of Pinegrove’s cherished commitment to bouncing pop rhythms over raw, clean vocals.

Early in the set, Hall stumbles into a familiar local blunder by asking the audience if Scotland is an independent country; he handles the crowd’s mock disgruntlement with humble apology and after the next song treats us to a speech about the recent discovery of new planets and what this means for politics.

It’s rare that a band can get away with this much stage chat (especially with an over-enthusiastic Glasgow audience) but Hall has such an easy-going, naturally engaging manner that the chat doesn’t detract from the music; in fact, the band’s indulgence in personal anecdotes keeps things fresh and often lends extra intimacy, as when Hall confesses that ‘Angelina’ is about a seven-year-old boy falling for a 45-year-old woman.

These moments of reflective pause are punctuated by the frenzied enthuasism the band apply to every song; ‘Aphasia’ especially is highlighted by an intricate solo, but throughout this intensity their obvious enjoyment in performing makes it look easy.

Avoiding rock’n’roll cheese, the band create their own encore with a solo performance of ‘The Metronome’, whose sparsity brings to light the delicate grandeur of the lyrics, their wavering between the conversational and profound: “a live ladybug / trapped between my toes: / keep it together man / we’re all connected now / stay composed”.

The set draws to a close with a rapturous performance of ‘New Friends’, and the crowd’s enthused reception feels truly earned as the band deliver a bittersweet reflection on friendship and positive change through bright, rich guitars, country jangle and a dash of indie swagger.

Hall closes by encouraging the audience to “challenge yourself to love better,” and as everyone slowly trickles from the room, Hall remains alone onstage, folding setlists into paper aeroplanes and tossing them out over the straggling fans, a final signal of affectionate connection.

It’s an endearing touch and while the last plane’s flight is a rather undramatic flop, Pinegrove aren’t a band afraid of failure; with songs as good as this and a positive, grounded attitude which right now feels culturally important, the band seem destined to go wherever they like.

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Words: Maria Sledmere
Photos: Aimee Boyle

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