Last month I saw Pinegrove with Half Waif and Hovvdy at Music Hall of Williamsburg.
Half Waif’s music pulsates and soars with strength and complexity. Half Waif is Nandi Rose-Plunkett’s ongoing project and features Nandi on synth/keys, Zack Levine on drums, and Adan Carlo on bass. All three musicians are also in Pinegrove.
This was my first time seeing Half Waif, and I was unsure how some of her recorded music would sound or even be performed live. Half Waif’s recorded music is undeniably complex with beautiful Celtic harmonies and deep thunderous electronic sounds. How could such a minimalist live setup pull it off?
Nandi herself gave a slight disclaimer before performing “Night Heat” live, telling the audience that it took them a while to figure out how to do the song live. A combination of impressive pedal work by Adan, creative drumming (on an electronic pad and regular set) by Zack, and Nandi’s beautiful synth work pulled it off magically. Zack used a Roland SPD-SX pad to recreate the many vocal layers Half Waif’s recorded music has. Programmed into the Roland was Nandi’s voice singing a high harmony note, and so for “Night Heat” and other tracks off of form / a Nandi’s voice rang out percussively over the parts she sang live. (A not completely musically related side note: I really like birds and bird calls, and I want that Roland so I can put different bird calls into it and drum with them)
The music sounded absolutely beautiful live. It retained its complexity (EG: my explanation of “Night Heat”) but also become more simple in certain parts, perhaps to its betterment. During “Turn Me Around,” for example, Nandi embraces a stripped down intro with less reverb on the vocals than on the recorded version. In my opinion this version is even more beautiful because the contrast between Nandi’s slow, high and vibrato filled “turn me around again” into the fun upbeat bassline and beats sounds so stark and raw and emotional. If you listen to the very end of the recorded version you’ll hear that she ends the song with less reverb, the way she starts the song live.
Half Waif is wonderful. See them live. Listen to their recorded music. Celebrate musical complexity and beautiful melodies and super cool electronic sounds. Also, I was once fortunate enough to interview Nandi for Rare Candy! Check that out if you’re at all curious.
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Pinegrove was on next. I have a history of loving Pinegrove. I have written about them before. And here. And if you really go way back into my blog you will find more. I love Pinegrove. Evan writes some of the most beautiful lyrics I’ve ever encountered: “Needles shaking outlines in a compass,” “But if I just say what it is, it tends to sublimate away,” “After the drugs have worn off, and we’re brittle in the light,” “If nothing else it’s an idle curiosity,” “You came and sent me out unfurling in the street.”
The reality is a few lines won’t give one the full picture. Evan’s lyrics are so interesting because they have a very conversational and casual tone while being very intriguing and quirky in their diction. From those few lines you can see the unique diction. How many songs use the word brittle? What you don’t see (hear) is the back and forth. Evan’s lyrics bounce back and forth and sometimes feel like your own inner dialogue. Line to line Evan’s songs tell a story, but the story is internal not external. The feelings themselves, the questions you ask yourself late at night or while driving along a beautiful road alone, are relatable. “If I did what I wanted then why do I feel so bad?” Or: “What if I waste my life up? / And all my problems / It’s so stupid / They’re not even problems.” The questioning of oneself, followed by an answer, followed by uncertainty with the answer given is brutally honest and introspective. This is how we think. We wonder, we answer, we doubt ourselves. It is not merely the content of the thoughts that is relatable but also the way these thoughts are expressed verse to verse.
I’d seen Pinegrove twice before. It is always a wonderful beautiful soul affirming experience. Fundamental to the sound of Pinegrove is the twisting and turning interplay between two, often now three, guitars. Live this interplay is even more fun with Evan and Sam Skinner (a wonderful guitarist who makes wonderful music of his own) working off of each other and exploring different spaces in the songs. This show in particular showcased the guitar playing of Sam and Evan as well.
I was very happy because Pinegrove played the longest set I’d ever seen them do. They also did a few older songs I really love (The Metronome and V) that I had not seen live before. And they played a new song!!! It was really good, and I am looking forward to its release.