Pink Mountaintops @ Waldorf -- 12/15/12

Most people know Steve McBean as the frontman of  Black Mountain, but he's also got a solo project that's been a little quiet for the past few years, Pink Mountaintops. The first -- and only -- time I saw them was a few years ago at my least favourite local venue, whose terrible sound put a damper on the show. So I was a little more than excited to see them again, especially at a much better venue, the Waldorf.

I missed the first band, Ford Pier Vengeance Trio due to a holiday party, arriving between sets and just in time to see Sex Church. Which I didn't actually realise until after, thanks to them only mumbling their name noncommittally once (maybe twice). They were a good fit for an opening band, a psychedelic rock sound with fuzzy guitars, which I was really liking, up until the lead singer joined in. The vocals wasn't very coherent, mumbled into the microphone, and I swear at one point he was just muttering random syllables. The band was full of really good musicians, and I really wanted to like them, but the vocals just didn't land for me.

Not too long after, Steve McBean took the stage alone and Pink Mountaintops began. The first song, "Comas" was just McBean and his guitar, but then a drum machine kicked in for "I (Fuck) Mountains" and the rest of the set to flesh out the sound. It was a contrast to the last time I saw them, a half dozen members large, this time more focusing mostly on McBean and his psychedelic guitar work, which was mind boggling at times. I also wasn't sure how McBean would fare on his own, as he's never really been one to interact with the crowd -- and for the most part he was silent -- but his presence while playing more than made up for it, especially evident in songs like "The Gayest of Sunbeams" with its upbeat, driving guitar.
Mid-way through the set he enlisted in the help of a couple friends, one on a floor tom and percussion and Ashley Webber on backup vocals, who were on and off stage for the rest of the night. (There was also a third guy who joined them for a song who was not playing any instruments, but rather handing out slices of cake to the crowd)
Other highlights from the night included "While We Were Dreaming" with the graphic but strangely moving line "
And if I could find your heart / 
I would pull it from your chest / 
And smash you with my fist / 
Til it was beating" 
and the heartbreaking "Tourist In Your Town" which ended the main set. McBean was, of course, back out for an encore of a couple more, the haunting "Vampire" and "Can You Do That Dance?" ending off the night with another high energy song.

When he first came out alone, I was a bit trepidation, but I should have known better to question Steve McBean. It ended up being a strong show, and I can only hope that this means more Pink Mountaintops is on its way soon.