The Big Pink experiment with sound and style at First Avenue

On their second full U.S. tour, London's The Big Pink filled yet another room at First Avenue on Thursday after selling out the 7th Street Entry back in November. This time the quartet was able to expand on their sprawling sound and stage set, turning up the smoke machines as well as the amplifiers on their way to an uneven but still fiery performance.

The Big Pink experiment with sound and style at First Avenue
A Place To Bury Strangers / Adam Bubolz for City Pages

The volume was clearly turned up right from the get go as Brooklyn's A Place To Bury Strangers either sent people running for cover or trying to get closer to the stage. The three-piece's performance was heavy on dissonance and fractious mood. The band didn't say a word to the audience but still managed to make all of our ears ring with their ear-piercing but still surprisingly melodic tunes. Featuring a set mainly comprised from their recent Exploding Head release, APTBS proceeded to blow away most of the unsuspecting audience who seemed to have no idea about the sonic tumult that was in store for them. But after a taut and challenging performance, the band clearly came away with a batch of new fans who, once their ears stop ringing, will hopefully check out more of what this scorching band has to offer.

The Big Pink experiment with sound and style at First Avenue
The Big Pink / Adam Bubolz for City Pages

Headliners The Big Pink strode on stage confidently to the strains of Cypress Hill's "I Wanna Get High," setting the loose but still stirring tone for their 70-minute set. And with an opening salvo of "Too Young To Love," "At War With The Sun," and "Frisk," the band clearly meant enliven the near-capacity crowd. It wasn't until the stellar "Velvet' before the Big Pink really set the place off, tearing into the track as if they had a point to prove. The song proved to be so fierce that it unfortunately shorted out something in Robbie Furze's keyboard. While Milo Cordell did his best to keep the crowd interested with his somewhat veiled and improvised guitar riff, the time it took the technicians to sort out the sound problem cost the show a bit of its hard-earned momentum.

So, the next few tracks found the band trying to recapture a bit of that lost luster, with "Crystal Visions" and "A Brief History Of Love" clearly resonating but not really hitting home. It wasn't until they blended the slow-building "Count Backwards From Ten" into a crafty cover of the Smashing Pumpkins "Mayonnaise" before the show really took off again. The band built off that energy enough to try a brand new song that echoes the energy of their debut record, just with a bit more mature sound, which seamlessly flowed into a vibrant version of "Tonight" that was one of the highlights of the night. The band hit another lull, it seemed, while they tried to find an elusive, unrecognizable groove, before Cordell eventually took the reigns and lead the band through an abbreviated but no less dazzling cover of Otis Redding's "These Arms Are Mine," which initially seemed like a bit of a noisy sound check before Milo's vocals caused the song to coalesce superbly.

The Big Pink experiment with sound and style at First Avenue
Adam Bubolz for City Pages

After that, the band didn't have much left in the arsenal other than a ferocious "Dominoes" that closed out their encore-less, 11 song set. No matter how overplayed the track may be at this point, the band still delivers a potent and powerful live version of the hit, and it really left all of us in the crowd reeling. All in all, the evening proved to be a forceful display of demanding experiments in sound and style from both bands.

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