Sound on Sound Review: Ariel Pink

Media-savaged savant or indie pop’s biggest asshole?

Cali pop weirdo Ariel Pink remains both widely influential and subversive. Behind a decade of amassed live train wrecks and incendiary interviews, the avant-garde act’s Sunday night performance at Cheer Up Charlies proved the first Sound on Sound makeup show to sell out.

Photo by Jana Birchum

Swapping his trademark Cobain mop for a black dye job, Ariel Marcus Rosenberg joined the hazy psych of fellow Angelenos and opener Mild High Club on the club’s outdoor stage for the collaboratively recorded track “The Chat.” His following 90 minutes front-loaded booming, bubblegum gone nightmare, push-pit-ready picks from his 11th studio album, Dedicated to Bobby Jameson. A suitcase memorial to the late Sixties singer-songwriter sat near the headliner’s feet, adorned with flowers and fairy lights.

A second slew of selections from 2014’s more experimental Pom Pom employed Pink’s homemade Halloween sounds, vocally ranging from devilish to Daffy Duck. Ditching the black hoodie completely, he sang sweaty and shirtless. His cross-body Tito’s Vodka fanny pack, ringed dog collar, and later a guitar strap approximated a found-object BDSM kit.

Moving “down the rabbit hole of weirdness,” a second-half stint of deep cuts pulled from the songwriter’s twinge-y analog days. At the hour mark, he’d lost a few of the throng. “Baby” picked it back up before a five-song encore of bedazzled dance hits.

Finale “Round and Round” had Pink walking over the crowd like water, draped in an audience-volunteered black wig as the goth ringleader of his own absurdity circus. Girlfriend and sometimes-bandmate Charlotte Lindèn Ercoli, the subject of the singer’s recent write-ups for questionable onstage interactions at a San Francisco show last month, watched from the side of the stage.

The enthralling freak performance didn’t really answer the question of Ariel Pink, however: media-savaged savant or indie pop’s biggest asshole? The enigma was left up in the air, his less palatable bits further selling the singular persona.

Don Bolles of Seventies punk legends the Germs acted as Pink’s backup vox and hype man throughout. The sidekick provided his own summation of the spectacle in a grandiose outro:

“Ladies and gentlemen, Ariel Pink. Transcendent.”

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Ariel Pink, Sound on Sound Fest 2017, Ariel Marcus Rosenberg, Kurt Cobain, Mild High Club, Bobby Jameson, Charlotte Lindèn Ercoli, Don Bolles, Germs, Daffy Duck

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