– Hi
A hesitant hand comes to meet my handshake… “Hi”
– So I heard you had a tough journey
– Yup
– Are you up for the gig?
– I’ll do it.
– Great – looking forward to it.
– Do you have a cigarette?
– No, but let me find you one…
That was the extent of my conversation with Ariel Pink last night. We found him sitting at the merch table. Head down, frizzy bleach-blond hair, wearing a hot pink cardie, stripy black and yellow baggy pants with chunky studded platform shoes, not caring about the stares from the crowd. While my friend hands him a cigarette, I hold back from asking for a photo as he leaves to consume his cancer stick. Let the guy have a life.

The first part of the gig starts on that cue, it’s Jack Name, one of Ariel Pink’s songwriting collaborators. Immediately, I am taken by the sound and stage presence. The arrangement: 3 people, Jack himself standing in the middle flanked very closely by two sitting minimally equipped drummers – a guy and a girl. They churn out early new wave sounding dark and twisted tunes, they remind me a lot of Joy Division, the singer’s looks and voice echoing like a young Ian Curtis. 5 solid songs played. We like.

Soon after they are done, Ariel steps onstage behind his band, a disparate bunch of guys who look just as weird as him, each one of them in a different way. The drummer’s outfit and hat make him look like he has stepped out of the movie Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS. I will spare the rest from comments on appearance, etc… but there is an obvious whiff about these guys: seasoned musicians that will NOT be granting us an evening of the easy-listening kind. They hit it off with Four Shadows and White Freckles, while at the same time making gestures at the National crew for a sound check that never happened (they didn’t make it to Montreal until 7 pm – event organizers Blue Skies Turn Black were nice enough to keep us updated on the progress of their tour bus as were delayed by the Antarctica-like weather and had to push back the show one hour). Focus is very much on songs from Pom Pom, the latest opus.

Ariel gets into full intensity by the 6st song with Not Enough Violence, and the crowds responds accordingly with mad trashing. Despite all of the sound imperfections, his reputed med addictions and general satirical take on the world, this showman clearly lives for his craft and takes us on a demented musical journey without ever taking himself too seriously. Some songs like Dinosaur Carebears and Jell-o could clearly belong in a Zappa-owned circus.

He closes the show this song

After a five-minute break, they come for the encore to play three older songs from his Ariel Pink and The Haunted Graffiti albums: Bright Lit Blue Skies, Only in my Dreams and a heartfelt Round and Round. I am left wondering why the first single from his latest album Picture Me Gone, wasn’t played at some stage in the evening, but by this point, i’m pretty satiated anyway.

As I exit, we get past the one-side hairbraid guitarist and give him a high-five. Ariel is sharing another cancer stick with his fans out in the cold, as if he wasn’t the one on stage a minute ago. Clearly, this is not a guy that has let celebrity and world media accolades get to his head. And we love him just for that.

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About The Author

Julie Godon
Collaborator - RREVERB
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Julie was born from a trumpeter dad and a drummer mum with music written in her DNA. She is from this generation that went from listening to vinyl, to creating mixtapes on cassettes, to splurging her early savings on a CD player, to discovering Napster, the iPod and so on... In 2005 she took part in the launch of Radiolibre, Quebec's first music streaming service and in 2006 started Palmares.ca, a francophone MP3 store. She spent 10 years looking after over 80 Canadian radio websites and has a ticket stub diary of over 300 shows.