Live Review: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart with Fear of Men & Ablebody at The Vera Project 5/3/2014

all photos by Dave Lichterman

In his interview with Stereogum, Kip Berman historically described The Pains of Being Pure At Heart as a project about writing songs and playing them with friends. Now, almost five years since the band’s divine eponymous debut, with a new backing lineup that helped record the new LP out in a week and a half, not much as changed for Pains. While the sounds, styles, and songs have changed, Berman and his friends continue to spread his secret to eternal youth with a new tour in support of Days of Abandon. In one of the best lineups that the Vera Project has seen in recent months, the Pains lineup dissected itself twice over to lend two excellent supporting acts: Ablebody opened the evening up with the three-piece brilliance of Christoph and Aton Hochheim and Jacob Sloan (also of Dream Diary and The Hairs), then Jessica Weiss’s band Fear of Men followed with an equally excellent nine song set. With both Pains and Fear of Men on the cusp on new releases, and with all three bands sharing members and a tour van all around, tonight’s evening was a family affair that the packed out Vera Project was invited to attend. Shouts of “We will never die” continue to echo in my head even a day later – the Pains of Being Pure At Heart continue to shine and shimmer their way deeper into our hearts.

Christoph Hochheim is a name that should be well known to any tried and true Pains fan. The guitarist and singer lent his talents to both the 2009 self-titled record and 2011’s glamorous Belong. While his fuzzed out guitar chops are on full display on the latter, what you don’t get to see is Hochheim’s formidable presence as a frontman. For Ablebody, his project with brother Anton Hochheim on the drums, Christoph takes front and center to showcase some top notch songwriting and, of course, more blistering guitar hooks. Joined by Pains touring bassist Jacob Sloan, Ablebody had great energy as a three-piece barreling through one dreamy west coast hook after another. Ablebody got the night off to a great start.

Ablebody:

Last week, Fear of Men dropped their debut LP Loom on Kanine Records, coming after a string of singles and demos that date all the way back to 2011. The Brighton UK band has made waves in the past few weeks with excellent single “Mosaic”, which, among their others, shows of Weiss as a songwriter and the band’s wondrous ability to carve a unique textural palette. Weiss references great works of literature and muses on philosophy, all done in a soft-spoken, haunting coo over lush, bright guitars. The band excels at dream pop and dabbles in shoegaze here and there, especially on the noisy closer “Inside”. Their first time in Seattle, Weiss and her band won the crowd over with ease. Once Loom begins to catch fire, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Fear of Men back soon on their own headlining tour.

Fear of Men:

At the band’s KEXP in studio earlier in the day, Pains was running through new cut “Eurydice” before airtime. Their tour manager/tech just laughed from the control room, looking over the mixing board. “It’s too easy,” he said, “the band just mixes itself.” There’s no doubt about that one. Berman’s songs are as warm and lush and inviting as is sonically possible, and with the excellent backing band on this tour, the exposition couldn’t be more perfect.

Berman started the set on his own, jumping on stage and manning his custom Telecaster to pluck out the heartbreaking Days of Abandon opener “Art Smock”. The room silenced in a heartbeat as Berman sang every note with pristine grace. The song is a magical opener on the record, and here tonight, it’s no different. The rest of the band filed on during the last chorus and prepped to rip into the new album’s most excitable track, “Until The Sun Explodes”. Berman has been toying around with this tune live since 2012, but here in its final form, it sounded more confident and, ahem, explosive than ever. But not one to lose a moment of energy on parts of the crowd that haven’t heard the new stuff yet, Pains followed up with back to back Belong classics “Heart In Your Heartbreak” and “The Body”, both of which could ignite a room in a heartbeat. Christoph ripped into the “Heart In Your Heartbreak” solo with reckless abandon, and the crowd responded with appropriately tactless screaming.

Jessica Weiss took lead vocals on Days cut “Kelly” with confidence and poise, easily matching the command that Jen Goma showcased on the record. Weiss and Berman sounded magical teaming up for the chorus, and again directly after for the Days lead single “Simple and Sure”. Here, every member of the crowd finally loosened, singing along to this wonderful ode to youth in revolt and unconditional young love. The timing was perfect, too, because right after, the crowd lost it completely for self-titled cuts “Come Saturday” and “Young Adult Friction”. Friendly bobbing and swaying turned to thrashing and head banging – it’s easy to forget in the wake of Pains’ newer, pristinely beautiful material that their brash beginnings were so raw and unapologetic. This was a great reminder for everyone.

While the crowd may have been a bit timid between songs, Berman kept the energy up with boundless stage banter and jokes, with topics including (but not limited to) Jason Vorhees, Swanson chicken, and Kurt Cobain’s cardigan. After extensively praising the Vera Project for its unique vision, one shout came up from the back. “You’re fantastic, Kip!” “Thanks Dad!” Kip responded enthusiastically. As Berman mentioned, this isn’t Pains’ first time at Vera – they played here in support of Belong with (at the time) fellow Slumberland band Weekend. It’s great to see such an a fantastic band taking advantage of the unique concert opportunities that Vera has to offer.

Pains closed out the set in merciless fashion. “Eurydice” was followed by all-time classics “This Love Is Fucking Right!” and “The Pains of Being Pure At Heart”. Returning for the encore, Berman was so taken by the crowd that he played an extra song that hasn’t been seen on hardly any recent setlists, the “Young Adult Friction” b-side “Ramona”. Berman tackled this one alone, like he had done for “Art Smock” earlier, and the result was complete crowd captivity. “I don’t need time, I just need you”, Berman sang over and over again. Tonight, we all believed it. The band returned to close with Days cut “Coral and Gold” and self-titled wonder “Everything With You”. Berman and the band bid everyone goodbye. Those that stuck around for a bit after got their hands on the first copies of the Days of Abandon vinyl, which came in just a couple hours earlier, almost two weeks in advance of the street date. Berman happily stuck around to sign all that wanted it. Tonight was an excellent three part show with nothing but joy and love throughout. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart remind us how much fun a band in love with the art of the industry can truly be.

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart:

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