by Samantha Stoakes
Announced only 24 hours beforehand, Pinegrove’s solo acoustic set at Run For Cover Records was guaranteed to be a cozy and intimate experience. Around 50 people squeezed into the office, turned into a welcoming and relaxing space with couches and snacks. Run For Cover has a track record of being extremely involved with their fan base, and this was not the first time the label has opened their Allston-based headquarters to the public, having previously hosted open house events for Black Friday and Record Store Day. Taking full advantage of social media, they even ran a livestream of the performance on their Facebook page; by the end of the night, the livestream had over 8,000 views from fans who had tuned in from all over the world to watch Pinegrove.
Boston-based solo artist Brittle Brian opened the show with her experimental lo-fi songs. The quiet and sparse nature of her music may seem unassuming in a live setting at first, but they made for an intense, captivating performance. I found myself quickly drawn in by her creeping guitar lines paired with honest lyrics musing on the good, the bad, and the ugly in life. Highlights of her set included “Devil,” a song about death and Daniel Johnston, and “Lizard Eyes,” during which several heads in the audience nodded in knowing agreement as she sang “I’m not scared of feeling ugly, I am scared of being lonely.”
This was my fifth time seeing the Montclair, NJ-based Pinegrove, but my first time seeing them in solo acoustic form. Pinegrove is difficult to nail down into a genre, as their music seamlessly weaves in and out of indie rock, pop, folk, and country, so I was excited to see how these songs would feel presented in a different way. It quickly became apparent that frontman Evan Stephens Hall is the type of musician who plays how he feels and constantly switches up his arrangements, accomplishing the easier-said-than-done feat of capturing a new facet of emotion in a song every time it is performed. “Need 2,” a song I’ve heard dozens of times, felt new again as Evan delivered it with a heartbreakingly detached restraint that slowly built into pleading shouts. The stripped-down songs made for a dynamic set full of moments like this, frequently shifting between subdued, reflective introspection and big, stirring expression, but always spectacularly powerful from start to finish.
The set included songs off of their new record Cardinal, now out on Run For Cover Records, as well as some older standbys like “Need” and “Problems.” Evan also played “Vowel,” an unreleased song that he introduced with a story about listening to Christian radio while touring through the South and becoming inspired to explore his religious curiosity. The highlight of the set, without a doubt, was the closer “New Friends.” As soon as Evan launched into the song’s jangly chords, almost everyone in the room was moving and singing with him. His warm, earnest vocals became even more joyful when joined by the audience’s unexpectedly enthusiastic singalong, making the performance all the more affecting. Maybe this is just me being sentimental and cheesy as hell, but it felt like a really special moment of togetherness – the sort of moment where a room of strangers really does feel like a room full of friends.
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In short, if you’re not listening to Pinegrove right now, you’re messing up. Catch them at the Royale on April 21st with Into It. Over It., The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, and The Sidekicks.
Brittle Brian will be playing later this month at Great Scott on February 24th with LVL UP, Florist, and Kal Marks.
Written & filmed by Samantha Stoakes // Photo by Carly Goldberg