The audience at Pinback’s sold-out show this Saturday night filled Bimbo’s with a pleasant air of mellow enthusiasm. The eclectic (albeit extremely white) crowd was excited without being obnoxious, and its quiet, genuine appreciation was the perfect match for Pinback’s own casual expertise.
Those coming for theatrics and bombast were most likely disappointed, but anyone looking for a laid-back display of musicianship and no-frills indie rock certainly got what they came for, and then some.
The duo at the core of Pinback, Rob Crow and Zach Smith, has been making music together for 15 years, and its seasoned comfort shines through an unassuming yet commanding stage presence. The pair plowed through a 23-song set, only pausing to briefly address the audience exactly one time each.
Smith maintained somber focus throughout the concert while his fingers glided across his bass guitar, slinging slick fingerpicking with stunning ease. Crow, who has a well-used beer holder affixed to his mic stand, threw back a great number of Newcastles during the set, often emptying an entire bottle in one incredible pull, and using half-full bottles to tap at the strings of his Les Paul.
The first half of the setlist was composed of soft, pretty ballads and down-tempo cuts off the band’s new album. Smith’s falsetto and Crow’s nasal croon blend into a honeyed harmony that hasn’t tarnished a bit over the years. Their most recent single, “True North” was executed beautifully, accompanied by two cellists.
The duo surprisingly sandwiched its two longtime fan-favorites, “Penelope” and “Fortress” into the middle of the set. “Penelope” was considerably sped up from its original tempo, giving new life to the love song that the fans have all listened to a thousand times to help ease the pain of every crush and breakup.
For “Fortress,” the Pinback song that everyone knows without knowing they know it, Crow did away with his mic stand and guitar and busted out some dance moves, including an remarkably successful worm, despite his prodigious beer belly.
The audience, thrilled with the band’s surge in energy, roared as Crow jumped off the stage and into the crowd, letting excited fans sing the chorus —“Stop, it’s too late!/ I’m feeling frustrated!” — into the microphone.
Post-“Fortress,” the setlist continued to steadily build energy as Pinback jammed its way through a more rock’n’roll repertoire, transforming the formerly stoic audience into an amiable dance party. At the end of the night, when soft-spoken Crow called out, “Thank you guys so fucking much!” there was no question that he really meant it.