In the wake of a year-long hiatus that followed a mysterious controversy loosely branded with the #metoo campaign and concluded with an open and honest explanation from frontman Evan Stephens-Hall via a Pitchfork article, Pinegrove have wasted no time trying to make amends with their fans and regain the momentum they worked so hard to achieve previously. In September Pinegrove released their long-awaited second studio album, Skylight, and they have been on the road quite a lot over the past few months too, including two trips to Europe.
I was lucky enough to see Pinegrove in Amsterdam in November and at the Garage in London in December, so I wasn’t disappointed to see that London had been left out of their April tour of the UK. A few weeks before their tour kicked off though, the band announced that they would be playing a small show in London at the Borderline on their ‘day off’ – hooray! Not only was this an unexpected bonus, but I can honestly say that seeing them at such a small and intimate venue was a gig experience like no other.
Pinegrove fans will know that other than lead singer/songwriter Evan and drummer Zack Levine, who founded the band together in 2010, the rest of the lineup changes frequently for live shows. On this occasion the band had Sam Skinner and Nick Levine on guitar, and a female bassist whose name I didn’t catch and who I haven’t seen at any previous live shows or YouTube live sessions. Nick, who you might have guessed is Zack’s brother, played with the band during the early years, so as someone who has only been a fan since 2016 it was great to be able to see him play with them again and add a different dimension to their performance.
The setlist in my opinion was fantastic. It reeled off all the hits – Old Friends, Aphasia, Angelina, Cadmium, New Friends, Size of the Moon, a few of their older tracks – the Metronome, &, V, and pretty much the entirety of their two full-length studio albums, Skylight and Cardinal. We were also treated to a brand new song, titled The Alarmist – I was a big fan and am already looking forward to the new album.
Interaction with the crowd was understandably minimal and there was a consorted effort to keep the chat between songs simple and polite, but there were definitely moments of Evan’s kooky banter dotted throughout as well. More importantly, the band sounded the strongest I think they’ve ever sounded. The chemistry was also incredible, the band were tight, and the new songs sounded like they’d been hits for years.
With the Skylight era possibly drawing to a close, it will be really interesting to see where Pinegrove go next. We already know that they have finished their new album, Marigold, but as Evan mentioned at the show there’s no clear plan for releasing this yet. Evan is a unique talent and one of the greatest songwriters of our generation. Pinegrove deserve all the recognition that will hopefully come their way, let’s just hope they remember to keep their tees tucked in and retain the charm and unique sound that earned them such a hardcore fanbase. For now, let’s enjoy the opportunities we have to watch them play such incredible shows at such intimate venues.