Pinegrove and Half Waif at Music Hall of Williamsburg

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 / 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.

Half Waif Interview

Check out the interview I did with Half Waif for Rare Candy:

Half+Waif+BandHalf Waif is the ongoing project of Nandi Rose Plunkett who is also a member of the New Jersey band Pinegrove. Her ethereal and complex songs bring to mind an underwater impressionist painting, and her often haunting melodies pierce in their emotional intensity. Zach Levine and Adan Carlo, both also members of Pinegrove, play drums and bass respectively in Half Waif. Recently, Rare Candy had the opportunity to ask Nandi some questions about songwriting, identity, and the place of music in times of political struggle. 

RARE CANDY: Your music is fascinating to me. I’ve learned about music mostly informally—going to shows, listening to my parents’ favorite albums, hours on Bandcamp, etc. —but I’ve also studied a bit of music history, and your music as Half Waif seems to draw from many different canons. Just listening to “Severed Logic” I hear multiple cultures and generations at play. What do you feel like you’re consciously drawing on? Going back and listening to your finished work, what do you feel unconsciously also slipped in?

HALF WAIF: I feel like whenever I try to consciously weave something into my music, I never really stick to it. Like, I’ll say to myself, “I love how open James Blake’s arrangements are, how he uses such minimal sounds to such great effect.” And then when I start arranging with that in mind I’ll end up filling in all the spaces anyway. So I think consciously, the only thing I know how to do is follow this sort of thread of myself, wherever it takes me. But I’m glad to hear that you experience different cultures and historical references in the music – I wonder if because I’ve steeped myself in different genres throughout my life, from musical theater in high school to the works of impressionist composers in college, those familiar elements trickle into the cracks or perhaps fuse together to create a kind of mosaic. At the end of the day, I’m constantly hunting for new music and new sounds and don’t really look back too much. So I think the influences, whatever they might be, flutter and shift quickly throughout the music.

RC: On your website you talk about identity and home. If you feel comfortable, I’d love to know a little more about this.

HALF WAIF: I was just writing about this in my journal today: the way we create our identity and how it seems to be comprised of many selves that take shape through experience. These selves start out as soft parts of us, then become hard and solid as we confront new situations that define us. Visually, I imagine that we all start out as lumps that continue to gain hard angles as we grow, until we acquire the form we’re in now. The idea of giving concrete form to ephemeral ideas/notions is something I explore a lot in my new EP, form/a. I realized recently that this search of identity and home that consumes me is a passed down to me through the women in my family. My grandmother lived through the British Partition and had to leave her home in Lahore when it became Pakistan, and then years later, my grandmother and mother and their family were forced to leave their home in Uganda when Idi Amin took power and expelled all the Indians. So my granny was a refugee twice and my mother became one too. Lahore, my granny’s home, suddenly took on a new form when it became Pakistan, yet it was still the same physical space, still the same landscape. This transmutability of homes fascinates me – how we ascribe meaning to places and make homes of things, when we are, by design, transient beings and nothing belongs to us.

RC: Within the context of our current political climate in the US, do you feel like these questions of identity and place have been made political?

HALF WAIF: Absolutely. The aggressively nationalist agenda of the new administration is terrifying and seems to address and benefit only a tiny fraction of our population. We’re suddenly being told that to be an American is to be one certain way; primarily, white. This isn’t new, of course, but now the folks in the highest levels of government are enacting policies that are trying to shape the country based around that one identity. Building a wall to keep out Mexicans. Encouraging the deportation of immigrants. Prioritizing the agenda of squashing anti-police sentiments without recognizing the very real dangers that are posed to African-Americans every day. And it’s just baffling because obviously so much of this country is made up of intercultural communities! It’s not America without them! And yet millions are being forced to question their identity as American citizens and the rights that have been given to them.

RC: In your opinion, what is the place of politics in music? Do you personally feel that as an artist you have a role to play in our political universe?

HALF WAIF: After Trump was elected, my first thought was, “well, how can I go on doing music now? Nothing matters except our efforts to combat this oppressor and protect those who need protection most.” I was on a Pinegrove tour and felt really confused about what I was doing. But in talking to my bandmates and other artists, it’s become clear that music is an important activity, now especially, because it has such a unique capacity to connect diverse audiences. Music is also something people turn to when they seek to be soothed, inspired, nourished, motivated, quieted. It can be a lifeboat, a receptacle for fears and dreams, a rocket to a faraway place. So I think even without having overtly political lyrics, music can play a role in the political realm by traversing the space beyond words and reaching deep into people, thus becoming a positive force in building and sustaining communities.

RC: You are also a member of Pinegrove, a band all of us at Rare Candy are big fans of. We have some writers from the Montclair area who have followed the band for a long time, and we’ve all been impressed (but of course not surprised) by how much success you all have had recently. What do you think makes Pinegrove’s music so appealing to so many folks?

HALF WAIF: Evan’s songs are remarkable because they are both direct and serpentine. They’re direct in their narration, their self-awareness, but his use of language is beautifully twisted. I think the sentiments resonate with a lot of people, particularly youth because they deal with themes of growing into adulthood and finding your place in the world. And then the way he describes this is so unique and exciting. It’s always exciting to see someone take familiar elements and devise their own language, and that’s what I aim to do too, though more with the sounds and song structures than with the lyrics.

RC: Evan shared a beautiful message about love and caring for one another at the Pinegrove show some Rare Candy folks and I attended at Irving Plaza during the last tour. Do you see venues and music spaces as possible places of resistance/political action? Do you see Half Waif shows as a space for political messages?

HALF WAIF: Without a doubt, music venues are incredibly crucial spaces right now – which is why we really need to fight for DIY spaces that are under attack all across the country. These spaces are typically all-ages, substance-free, and welcoming for people of all genders, races, physicality, religious belief, etc etc. Little slices of utopia, if we allow ourselves to dream that way.

I don’t think musicians need to feel obligated to say something political during their shows, but I do think we have a responsibility to use this platform we’ve been given to connect with people however we can. On the Pinegrove tour, I think Evan did that beautifully. On the ongoing Half Waif tour in Europe, I’m also speaking onstage about the political situation – not in a way that feels forced, but because I am fully enraged and am channeling that into every outlet I possibly can. It’s been amazing to see how much support the resistance movement has all over the world – the way the Women’s March spread to dozens of countries – so there has definitely been a very encouraging vibe. For some people we’re playing for, we’re the only Americans they’re getting to talk to, so I feel a sense of duty in representing our country and explaining the deeply dangerous situation we’re in. “Keep Calm and Carry On!” said one audience member at our show in Manchester last night, after I finished talking, and I shouted back, “No, we can’t keep calm! We have to rise up!”

RC: Do you feel like you’ve learned certain things from Pinegrove that you’ve employed in Half Waif’s music? The music is pretty different, but I’m curious where you may see similarities.

HALF WAIF: I hope that listeners find that at the core of the recordings are songs that could exist in a myriad of different settings. Still, in the recording process I’m really excited by arranging and production. And that’s something that Evan and I definitely share: we’re both songwriters, and we talk to each other a lot about how to be effective storytellers. We may go about that in different ways sometimes, but ultimately we share that common ground of wanting to communicate ideas and emotions through a combination of musical tools.

RC: What do you hope for Half Waif in the next year? How is the European tour going already?

HALF WAIF: Half Waif has been growing since February 2012. It’s been a slow growth, and throughout this time I’ve really had to cultivate patience, which hasn’t always been easy! But it’s given me a chance to refine my songwriting (which is obviously an ongoing process), think a little more critically about what I’m writing, how I want to communicate, and now I feel ready for more people to hear it. We’re blessed to be working with a great team for the first time who are helping us share the music, so I hope that we can continue to tour and reach new people this year. It’s a simple goal, but it’s one I’ve been working at for a long time.

We’re early on in our Europe tour at the moment, but our first few shows have been so fun. I still can’t believe we’re getting to play these songs for audiences overseas! And that people are actually coming to see us! It’s weird to be here with so much going on back home, but we’re seeing this as an opportunity to talk to people and spread a message that we’re out here not just to share our music but also to reaffirm our commitment to being forces for positive change in this world. Every day, we’re trying to flex our political muscles to remind ourselves that even though we may feel small and hopeless, we do have power as individuals, and all of that individual power combines to make a mighty force.




Hi lovely people. Sorry I’ve been quiet lately. Things have been so damn busy! I’m back in New York from SF and starting classes etc. This weekend I was in D.C. for the women’s march with my mother, aunt and cousin. It was so so special to be there with them to witness history being made by BADASS women.

Pinegrove celebrated the march and is participating in the resistance by donating the proceeds from Elsewhere, a new live album, to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The fact that it’s so well meaning and inspiring is really eclipsed by the tracks themselves. Each track feels fully re-imagined live in stunningly beautiful and markedly emotional ways. Nandi’s background vocals are more prevalent on certain tracks adding richness and a brighter color, and Evan tests out a variety of different vocal styles and harmonies on nearly all the tracks. All the songs go slightly harder live but in a notably different way than most bands play more energetic versions of songs live. Pinegrove’s live tracks hit much higher registers (vocals and instruments) packing them with emotional honesty and rawness not always heard on the recorded versions (listen to the version of Size of the Moon and you will get it). Also, often times you hear the whole band joined in a near campfire-esque group signing style that works nicely with Evan’s lyrics about loneliness and friends you love and that weird balance. Nandi often strays from the group singing stunning harmonies.

And somehow these songs, all RECORDED LIVE, have absolutely amazing sound quality.

Spread love and Evan’s lyrics please.

join the women’s resistance here: 

listen to Pinegrove’s live album / purchase it for charity here:


SALES is wonderful . . . this song is wonderful . . . please enjoy with a glass of champagne.

2016 wasn’t so wonderful for the world. I started college and graduated from SFUHS which was wonderful, but I can’t help but focus on the election of a fascist to the highest office of the US govt. For all the upsetting things that happened in 2016 (pulse, Aleppo, Trump, the many many shootings of unarmed young black men by cops, the many many other shootings of innocent people by people who shouldn’t have guns . . .) there are actions we can take to try and be better personally and also to better the world. Give to the ACLU or Planned Parenthood, call your congressperson about issues you think are important, stay informed and read quality journalism (this blog does not count), and above all treat others with kindness and love one another.

During Pinegrove’s show at Irving Plaza Evan talked about how their songs are principally about love and how he’s hopeful that each person singing along to his lyrics follows their message and lives a life of love not hate. On a slightly different but related note, music is always what heals me when I’m hurting. When things become overwhelming and shitty put on a record. And do what Evan said. Learn to be better from the music you listen to. Listen to the lyrics, think critically. Hopefully sometimes reading this blog and listening to the content I share with you makes you feel and live a little bit better.

I’m sending you absolutely all my love for the New Year. Let’s make it great, we have the power don’t forget it!

Concert Review: Pinegrove, Kevin Devine and Petal

This night was magical, and I shall tell you why.

Petal opened and was absolutely lovely. Ben from Tigers Jaw was playing with her which surprised me (pleasantly). Her songs are introspective and delicate and her voice is beautiful. A highlight of Petal’s set was a very very pretty rendition of “Home” by Talking Heads. She also addressed the election and how each band on the tour cares deeply about their shows being safe places where everyone can feel better not shittier. “Don’t let the bad man from New York” ruin this, she told us. Since the election I’ve struggled to be around people or in spaces that don’t acknowledge the huge shift in our realities that occurred a month ago. It was nice that each band did mention that they see part of their jobs as musicians to bring love into the world during a painful time.

I’ve seen Kevin Devine twice before, and he’s always excellent. Kevin is a super multi-faceted musician with beautiful, poetic lyrics. He pulls off Leonard Cohen/Jackson Frank singer-songwriter so well but also puts on a very energetic and fun rock show when he’s playing with his band. Kevin pleased the crowd with a mix of solo stuff including a beautiful song about his family and growing up and also energetic Goddamn Band songs. The crowd was super into it and sang along enthusiastically. He also sang a stunning and heartbreaking cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel.”

I saved Pinegrove for last because we save best for last. Even though they played second they were the best and it was pretty clear that most of the people at the show were there for Pinegrove (or at least that their fans were louder). Evan was so taken aback by the love they got that he told us more than once he was struggling to sing against his smile. Each song was beautiful and played with such energy, care and love. Every member of the band was smiling brightly. I hadn’t realized what a fantastic guitarist Evan is, and it was special and dope to watch him play. The crowd was ecstatic. Everyone sang, everyone smiled big and everyone showed love and care for one another. Pinegrove also mentioned the election and asked that those singing their songs about “all kinds of love, platonic love, romantic love, familial love” try and be true to the lyrics and bring more love into the world. Music and love make me so happy. Pinegrove makes me happy.

The whole show made me happy.

And then after the show my friend and I found the most beautiful wooden, wicker chair in a trash pile in the east village. We rescued it and took it on the long journey uptown on the NQR, through times sq station, and all the way up to 116th.

Magical! I know!