a.) an offbrand Count Chocula cereal box character
b.) a villain from a 1980s action cartoon
c.) a post-punk goth frontman
He and Haunted Graffiti opened their set with “Symphony of the Nymph” from Mature Themes (2012), a song that announces “my name is Ariel and I’m a nympho.” The new album, released in August, is darker and more challenging than the euphoric pop-collage of Before Today (2010), and is also an alleged breakup album about Pink’s ex-girlfriend and fellow LA lo-fi magician Geneva Jacuzzi. Though things can’t be so bad between them since Jacuzzi was onstage with the roadies checking the band’s keyboards and recently starred in the “Only in My Dreams” music video.
There may be some truth to “Symphony of the Nymph.” When Ariel Pink played the Metro two years ago he lept into the crowd and began indiscriminately making out with anyone who would allow his tongue in their mouth (more people than you’d expect). While less intimate this time around, Ariel did jump into the crowd for a spastic fit of crowdsurfing at least once per song. He encouraged those standing in the balcony to “come down and touch me!” And upon returning for an encore he asked “how many girls want me right now?”
Haunted Graffiti created a solid platform for Pink’s erratic behavior with focused performances of the intricate songs. Guitarist Kenny Gilmore and bassist Tim Koh professionally handled Ariel briefly quitting the band during the recording for Before Today, leaving the stage mid-set at the Pitchfork Music Festival two summers ago and refusing to sing during part of their Coachella set that same year.
For a moment during “Early Birds of Babylon” the remainder of the show looked uncertain as Ariel took to screaming the time signature shattered refrain of “how does he do that?!” while laying down on the stage with his bottle of champagne. The threat of a meltdown passed, and Pink’s energy remained at the stage-diving-high for the rest of the night.
The set pulled heavily from Mature Themes, proving the strength of even the most outlandish new material alongside favorites from Ariel’s extensive back catalog of bedroom recordings. The schizophrenic shouting on “Is This the Best Spot?” oddly makes sense alongside the sweetness of “Only In My Dreams” and the vulnerability of “Mature Themes,” but only from Ariel Pink, a living goldmine of fragmented pop gems from an era that never happened.