Ariel Pink shows strange on stage


Lou Foglia

Los Angeles musician Ariel Pink blows kisses to audience members in his spikey rhinestone stilettos,  Feb. 17 during his sold-out show at Thalia Hall, 1807 S. Allport St.

By Arts & Culture Reporter

On a night when Sleater-Kinney’s reunion show had just as much star power, Chicago’s rock misfits flocked to Thalia Hall, 1807 S. Allport St., for the sold-out performance of lo-fi rocker Ariel Pink on Feb. 17.

Ariel Pink, the Los Angeles artist known for his avant garde style and androgynous stage presence reminiscent of the ‘70s outfits worn by David Johansen of the New York Dolls, made a stop in Chicago as part of his “Pom Pom” tour in support of his critically acclaimed album of the same name—the first Ariel Pink album that does not use the lengthy moniker, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti.

Confusing yet surprisingly satisfying, the show hooked the audience the second Ariel Pink’s opening act, Jimmy Whispers—a Chicago native whose debut album Summer in Pain comes out March 24—stepped foot on stage like a sudden tornado of wackiness and fun. Sporting a red dress, climbing on anything in sight and crowd-surfing at least three times, Whispers’ performance certainly set the stage for the craziness to come. Even though he performed with his phone in place of a supporting band, Whispers got the attention of the college-aged crowd with his chaotic and hilarious stage presence, oftentimes screaming things at audience members like, “This song’s about getting high ya little stoners.”

Whispers’ too-short half-hour set ended on a high note in which he played Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” and forced audience members to slow dance with one another. The show’s second opener, Jack Name, killed the energy with its lack of stage presence and complicated, repetitive music. This did not last long once Ariel Pink took the stage, turning the lackluster crowd’s enthusiasm back up.

If the night’s tone was not already clear thanks to Whispers, Ariel Pink and his six-piece band of characters cleared any doubt that the show was not going to be  an average strum-and-sing rock concert. Ariel Pink—bare-chested and outfitted in glittery purple booty shorts, an unflattering potbelly and spikey rhinestone stilettos that could rival Gene Simmons—joined his band, which included a keyboardist in a lucha libre mask and a drummer wearing an unflattering two-piece bikini and cowboy hat. The band opened with “White Freckles” from pom pom

Although he ran around with his dimply back and plumber’s crack peeking out for the entirety of the show, there was something captivating about Ariel Pink’s performance. While many of Ariel Pink’s lyrics are more humorous, such as “Jell-O,” with lyrics “I believe in reincarnation/ That’s why I eat Jell-O/ It’s good for the stomach,” Ariel Pink brought out a rare glimpse of a different side to the song with the ballad “Picture Me Gone,” which brought out the lighters in the crowded venue.

Ariel Pink’s performance was undoubtedly contagious to concertgoers as well. watching  the crowd was almost as captivating and pleasantly confusing to watch as the man on stage. A gathering of people mostly under 25 years old, including fans with multi-colored hair, wigs and costumes and even a sighting of Mario Cuomo from indie rock band The Orwells, the audience moshed and danced to every song in the show. The crowd was a perfect fit for Ariel Pink’s concert, often on the unruly side of things—throwing beer cans and bras on stage—but having the same pleasant and fun attitude that Ariel Pink and his band displayed from the stage. 

For those who were not fans of Ariel Pink before the show, his sheer dedication to his live performances should be enough to persuade even the most critical attendee. Ariel Pink definitely knows how to put on a show that will stick in viewers’ minds for years to come.  With his satisfyingly unusual stage presence, it is wise to get on board now because it will not be much longer before Ariel Pink starts selling out venues far bigger than Thalia Hall.