On April 26, I took to the Sinclair in Harvard Square to experience a Pinegrove show for the eighth time. The band’s nearly flawless live sound, their always wholesome and sincere message, and overall danceability always makes the trips worthwhile for me. But the Pinegrove buzz is much bigger than myself, and this was evident in the extremely sold out crowd. The Montclair, N.J. natives signed to Run for Cover Records in October 2015. A short four months later with the release of Cardinal, it became clear the rock ‘n’ roll six-piece with country twang and shifting time signatures was ready to take on the world.
Opener Horse Jumper of Love endeared the crowd with melancholic strumming and soft-spoken bantor. As a staple in the Boston DIY community, the modest and always thought-provoking three-piece served as the perfect warmup for the show.
Next up was Hovvdy of Austin, Texas. I was familiar with their latest album, Taster, and had been anticipating their performance since its release. The band emerged onstage with the familiar frill-less authenticity that could be expected by both accompanying acts and impressed the crowd with introspective lyricism, intertwining guitar and keyboard work, and an undeniably strong stage presence. The audience bopped and “woo”-ed appropriately; it seemed as though the band’s premiere on the east coast was something of a success.
Finally, it was time for Pinegrove. While the band was tuning for the first song they would play, “V,” frontman Evan Stephens Hall set the tone by reminding showgoers to have fun and to dance, but also to be respectful of the space and the people surrounding them. They touched on a bit of everything, from old tunes to new ones, “Old Friends” to “New Friends.” Comprised of six people, every member of Pinegrove shines onstage. As an audience member, whether you were watching Adan Carlo rhythmically sway on the bass, Zack Levine make expressions while keeping perfect time on the drums, Sam Skinner keeping it cool while plucking the strings of the guitar, Nandi Rose Plunkett radiating positivity playing the keys and making sweet, sweet harmonies, Josh Marre bobbing his head while playing guitar and adding vocal flare, or Evan Stephens Hall exhibiting his youthful presence and deep cutting lyrics, there was always something to revel in.
Surveying the crowd as the band played “Visiting,” I couldn’t help but think the entire audience was overtaken by the same feeling I had throughout the set, as well as the hours following. The feeling was something of pure happiness, something of curiosity, and something of belonging, even in the large, crowded venue that was the Sinclair. This feeling is always my favorite part of seeing Pinegrove and watching how it affects the audience, whether people are dancing in sync with their pals, screaming lyrics like, “I am out of my gaddamned mind / and out to California” with hundreds of strangers, or even getting a little misty (like I did around three times during the show).
The many tuning breaks throughout Pinegrove’s performance allowed Hall to engage with the audience a lot more often than usual. He kindly asked the crowd how they were feeling, spilled a few details about recording a new album in the summer months, and even welcomed a visitor onstage. This visitor was a small plastic figure of popular video game character Yoshi, who delighted band members and the audience alike. After surprising the audience with a beautifully arranged version of “The Metronome” and being heckled to play “Toast,” Hall hinted at wanting to create a food-themed album, including unwritten tracks like “Gorgeous Gourds,” and maybe one about bell peppers. This playful banter led to the band’s short break before their encore. “We’re gonna go for a quick snack break. We should be back in 30 seconds,” Hall informed the crowd.
The band reemerged from their short break about 30 seconds later, Hall with slices of red bell peppers in tow. He placed them on his amp and got right into their final tune, “Recycling.” Pinegrove exited the stage with a sincere “thank you” matched by thunderous applause.
The show was over, but the aforementioned feeling lived on. The crowd disbanded, many making their way to the merch table. As I waddled my way toward the long line in front of the table, I heard a girl say to her companion, “Seeing Pinegrove live made me want to be a better person.” Perhaps being kind and unapologetically sincere is the new punk.