TVD Live: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart with Big Troubles, 9/24

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart were formed in 2007 by Kip Berman, Peggy Wang, Alex Naidus, and a drum machine. (I don’t know its name/model no.) They released a 5-song, self-titled EP under the Painbow label and two of those songs were re-recorded by the band after Kurt Feldman took the drum machine’s place and released on their breakthrough self-titled LP in February of 2009 through Slumberland Records.

That April, they came to Cleveland for the first time to a packed show at the Beachland Tavern. That night Berman asked whether the Browns should go with Anderson or Quinn, the Afternoon Naps played a great set, and the whole show was a terrific experience.

In June of 2010, touring behind their Say No to Love 7”, the Pains came back to the Beachland Ballroom with Surfer Blood and Hooray for Earth (whose records you probably have heard already, and if you haven’t, you should). The crowd didn’t seem nearly as packed, which makes sense due to the size of the room, but it was still a good show.

This year, they released Belong, another great record that seemed to make the natural transition from sounding like 80s noise pop to mixing in some 90s influences (most notably, the Smashing Pumpkins). If you can’t tell, I really like this band and have seen them whenever the chance came up—traveling as far as Portland to do so, which was great, but you should ask me in person for that story. Needless to say, I was beyond excited for this show.

Big Troubles are a group of guys from New Jersey who just released their second album, Romantic Comedy, also on Slumberland. This show was the first of the Pains/Big Troubles tour, and from the first song, it made perfect sense as to why their label paired the two together. The band had a great sound that relied on big guitars and powerful songwriting by Alex Craig and Ian Drennan.

Never having heard the band before I didn’t know any of the songs, although they did perform a cover of the Go-Betweens’ “Bachelor Kisses” (which sounded familiar, but I couldn’t place it until Kip told the crowd what it was later in the night) after dedicating it to their new tourmates.

One of my favorite things about the band was that the two singers seemed to trade off on songs, and on a song where one wouldn’t sing lead, he’d play more of the lead riffs. While the Ballroom was nearly empty when they started, the crowd grew during the set into a respectable size, and the band gave it their all, no doubt the reason for why people kept trickling in.

I bought their first LP, 2010’s Worry (Olde English Spelling Bee) and the “Sad Girls” 7” (2011, Slumberland) while my friend (who I will now refer to as Lucy Van Pelt in everything I write from here on out, as she requests to be called) bought their new record. We listened to it today, and it was just as good as we hoped. I can only expect to hear more records from these guys. I can’t wait for them to come around again, although that is unlikely based on the fact they’ll be on the road until at least late November.

The Pains came out a little before 10, and as usual, I was in the front row. Kip had switched back to playing his Jaguar (last time I saw them, April 30th in Columbus, he played a Hagstrom Viking [I think that’s what it is, he had it as his backup this time if you know what model it is, let me know]), which seemed to completely make a difference from the last time. Just like the previous show, they opened with the title track from Belong, but whereas last time the guitar seemed to lack the crunch from the record, the Jaguar brought that necessary distortion back. Another noticeable difference was that Alex joined Peggy and Kip with vocals which was enjoyable on the few moments where he chimed in (most notably “Heaven’s Gonna Happen Now”).

They played seven of the ten songs from Belong, skipping my favorite, “Girl of 1,000 Dreams,” but still coming close to the huge studio sound on the record. For the older songs, it’s always interesting to see how Kip changes or adds solos and riffs over the rhythm parts that long-time touring guitarist, Christoph Hochheim, plays (quick note: Christoph and Kurt were in a band called the Depreciation Guild who put out two fantastic records; but they broke up, so Kurt started the Ice Choir, however I’m not sure if Christoph plays in that band too).

As usual, the band made it known how grateful they were to Big Troubles for touring with them, everyone at the Beachland, and everyone who stayed to watch them. They dedicated “Everything With You” to all of these people, and performed it as wonderfully as ever, and then closed out the set as they have every other time I’ve seen them with what I suppose is their theme song.

After a few minutes, Kip came back out to give a one-person rendition of “Contender” (which he noted in Columbus as being “the first song we ever wrote”) after which the band came out to perform last summer’s single, “Say No to Love.” Finally, they played the closing track from this year’s album, “Strange.”

It was a great set (even though it completely avoided the wonderful Higher Than the Stars EP), which is what I’ve come to expect from the Pains over the two years I’ve been a fan. I chatted with Alex afterwards for a short while, and he told me that they always liked coming to the Beachland, and that this time was especially nice since he realized that it was only a short walk to the lake. So that was good to know. Hopefully they’ll come back early next year, and if they do, you should check them out.

I’ll be there, unless I die or something.

**There was also an after party in the bar that was hosted by DJ Party Sweat, and while I only stayed for a few moments, I can already tell you that if you ever see Party Sweat or the Very Knees on a flier, you should go wherever it tells you to.

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