Last weekend presented two brilliant, but totally different shows that I can't help but compare. On Friday night The Pains of Being Pure at Heart played to a packed Buffalo Bar and, together with the audience, created a feeling of excitement and euphoria I haven't experienced in a very long time. The band possessed a disarming sincerity as they abandoned any posturing or sense of showbiz that won over seemingly everyone there. No encore or any other rockstar signifier, just half an hour of exuberant fuzzed up guitar pop that reminds me of Black Tambourine or The Primitives as much as The Field Mice. It left me feeling that sure The Pains of Being Pure at Heart is a slightly absurd name, but then so is My Bloody Valentine, and I don't really want to share these kinds of experiences with people who would dismiss a band based on their fey name. The Manhattan Love Suicides played before them and were brilliant too, but I think it was the excitement of the crowd for the Pains and how clearly the band fed off it that made this such a memorable show.
Then on Sunday I wandered along to The Luminaire to catch The Clientele again. Back in New Zealand there are tons of bands people claim to be huge overseas but woefully ignored at home, and it's interesting to see it happens in London too. After three amazing albums, all received to almost unanimous acclaim (I take everything Pitchfork say with a grain of salt, but three albums scoring in the mid 8s is hard to ignore) I think even the most optimistic of optimists would have to accept The Luminaire was half empty. Before the band came on Felt's 'Penelope Tree' was playing, as good a contender as any for my favourite song ever, and it stuck in my head throughout The Clientele's performance. I couldn't help thinking almost every song they played was just as good. As the played through old and new songs, Alasdair dismissing the new songs as "after we started to suck", they destroyed all my old feelings of "they just don't make them like they used to", I feel this is a band I will always love just as much as Galaxie 500 or The Zombies. They manage to create and sustain a mood I find completely arresting, I find myself completely lost in the music in a way Bertolt Brecht would despise but I find so sustaining. The audience patiently sat through the show politely clapping at the end of each song, but it wasn't until the end of the show that I realised almost everyone else there was feeling the same was as me. Yet it seemed such a personal experience, like Yo La Tengo I feel The Clientele were a band formed specifically with me in mind - like they sit around wondering "what type of band does Chris want to exist?"
I guess the two shows present the difference between a collective and an individual experience. When I listen to the Pains I feel a sense of optimism for a sense of a music community that includes the bands they play with and the people who come along as much as the band themselves - then the individualism of The Clientele makes me overjoyed I'm able to see such a singular band.