Live at Brudenell Social Club on Tuesday, 6th September 2016
One of the best things about the set tonight at Brudenell Social Club from New Jersey newcomers Pinegrove is how much they're enjoying playing it. The band are preceded by their friends Gulfer, who have plenty of enthusiasm and some promising alt-rock riffs and licks, but suffer from a vocalist who does them no favours, screaming and screeching so prominently that it's hard to hear the rest of the band, let alone enjoy the songs they are clearly so passionate about.
It's a memorable opening slot for all the wrong reasons, and an even more surprising choice given the difference in style compared to the top of the bill. It's only later in the evening - when it transpires that the two bands used to practice at one another's houses - that a little light is shed on an otherwise mismatched touring partnership.
There's no such head scratching to be had with Pinegrove, who have been justifiably moved from the games room to the main room due to demand. An upgrade to larger premises for a band on their first UK tour is hopefully a sign of great tunes and musicianship rather than a well-oiled hype machine, and thankfully that's the case here.
The set is heavy on their album Cardinal, released in February 2016. A roaring debut birthed after a slew of EPs and self-released samplers over the past six years, it's fiercely brought to life in a presentation that captivates the crowd as much as it satisfies the band.
That Pinegrove have been playing together for such a long stretch before finally unleashing this collection via Run For Cover Records probably accounts for how much they gel as a unit - it's rare to see a young band play like such old friends. The songs are energetic yet earnest - think Ben Kweller meets The Get Up Kids - but never stray into overwrought introspection.
There's a sheen of wistfulness to tracks like Size Of The Moon combined with an anthemic build, which is where the band could be headed for in terms of a signature sound, while they strive to keep things fun and funky on the hooky Cadium.
There's plenty of genuine wonder from the band at the reception they receive - singer Evan Stephens Hall says the Brudenell 'might be the best room we've ever played in' and it feels like awe rather than rehearsed patter - and by the time the melodic notes of Aphasia close the show, it's fair to say this is one of the best gigs that room will see in a while.