Five years ago, it didn’t seem like Ariel Pink would ever boast a reputation that preceded himself. His decade-long catalog of inscrutable L.A. pop never seemed like appropriate fodder for the dark-horse fervor he and backing band Haunted Graffiti would stir after 2010’s ephemeral wonderland, "Before Today." Even odder is how any semblance of waxing accessibility has yet to arrive on this year’s "Mature Themes." Eleven records deep, Pink’s cult continues to expand congruently with his weirdness. And that fondness for the group’s infamously chaotic live show was immediately palpable through their Saturday night set at Fine Line.
The crowd, a more ordinary-looking bunch than one would envision, took to shutterbugging the moment Pink, adorned in the clothes of a queer schlock dracula, stepped onstage. The group quickly pounded out "Mature Themes" standout “Symphony of the Nymph” over Pink’s serial crowdsurfing - a standard in protocol that would carry through the entire 90 minutes of the group’s set. The catalog exploration wouldn’t change much either, but they did make sure to play the hell out of the new record.
The one drawback comes with the fact that while "Mature Themes" may show Pink bathing in his sexual frustrations, it’s a record that is more sonically dizzying than danceable; they’ve worked that out for the stage. Tim Koh’s bass bumps louder than on record, so those Syd Barrett guitar parts land a bit less aggressively. And much like Les Savy Fav operates with frontman Tim Harrington, it’s more so Pink’s duty to follow the band rather than vice versa.
Deviations from the new record were pretty narrow. “Bright Lit Blue Sky” popped up in the back half of the set. “One on One” from 2003’s "Worn Copy" seemed to be one of the deepest cuts from Pink’s ten-year-old songbook. It also didn’t come as too large of a shock that the band passed on performing "Before Today" high point “Round and Round,” as well as their newly beloved cover of Joe & Donnie Emerson’s “Baby.”
And that was all fine. Because even when he was tumbling ass-in-the-air towards the floor in a botched crowd surf, Pink sounded stellar. His sole misstep was the decision to join the band on guitar during the encore; Pink was shifting from beer bottle to wine bottle multiple times in a single song. Strumming seemed past his point of function by the time they were rounding out the set.
Even with Haunted Graffiti’s malleability in regards to Pink’s do-as-I-feel presence, his behavior was reserved to fanciful thank yous and the repeated stage dives. And should this have been one of those oft-mentioned bad nights where Pink found the burden of finishing a performance too great to bear, Haunted Graffiti would have continued in their consistently spectacular fashion. But luckily he didn’t freak out, because he was in spectacular fashion too.