Photos by Julia Leiby
The band behind one of 2016’s strongest releases, Pinegrove, played to a sold-out audience at Rock and Roll Hotel on the warmest Saturday this year. An initially laidback affair, with attendees–many sporting the group’s emblematic merch–sitting on the ground between sets, turned thunderous as the Montclair, New Jersey natives performed.
Philadelphia folk artist Shannen Moser opened the show. Her vulnerable voice and candid lyrics, similar to Jenny Lewis and early Waxahatchee, transfixed those in the audience. The addition of a full band–drums, guitar, cello, and keyboard–added another layer to the rawness of her performance.
Hovvdy from Austin, Texas, performed next. Alternating vocalists Charlie Martin and Will Taylor sang numbers off the group’s latest record, Taster, that included the song “Meg,” an ode to Will’s sister. Their mellow and melodic sound, with a distinctly southern twang at times, served as a perfect complement to the lineup. At their set’s conclusion, Charlie thanked his mother, who traveled from Texas to be in attendance.
By the time Pinegrove took the stage, any remaining breaks in the crowd were filled with people. An initially calm group jumped and cheered as the six-piece began to play, with most singing along as Evan Stephens Hall belted the words to opener “Old Friends.” The band continued playing earnest, and at times melancholy versions, of songs from their 2016 debut as well as the recently reissued Everything So Far. “Aphasia,” another fan favorite, particularly unraptured attendees. As Hall sang “One day I won’t need your love/One day I won’t define myself by the one I’m thinking of,” the crowd matched him, looking just as impassioned as the vocalist did on stage.
Much of the banter centered on Pinegrove’s experience at the Climate March earlier that day. Hall asked the crowd how they were feeling, and when someone responded “Hot!” he explained, “When we came in here, [the air conditioner] was at like forty degrees…they’re doing the best they can.” He then thanked the people of Washington, D.C. for “…hosting such an incredible march.”
By far the most memorable moment of the night was their performance of “Angelina,” a brief and upbeat number, igniting a roaring response from the audience. Keyboardist Nandi Rose Plunkett looked in disbelief at Hall, mouthing her excitement at the response, and Hall said the reaction was, ”the longest applause [they’d] ever received.” The band collected briefly, with Hall stepping away from the mic, returning seconds later to announce they were breaking character and going to play the song again. The room erupted as it was played once more, eliciting an even louder reverberation than the initial performance.
As the set came to a close, neither the band nor the crowd’s enthusiasm dwindled. A number of people could be seen singing the words to every song until the end–a testament to the group’s devoted following. Having such a loyal fanbase is rare for a band that has only released one LP. But, it is apparent Pinegrove values those who listen to the music they make, welcoming them to performances with a sense of warmth and familiarity. With this in mind, it was only fitting the band conclude with the closing track on Cardinal; “New Friends.”