Ariel Pink in Sydney – Live Review

ariel pink photo.png

Melissa Barrass headed to Oxford Art Factory to catch American singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ariel Pink in action:

Braving a fever that could only challenge Chuck Norris at his worst, I witnessed Nicholas Allbrook open the evening as the support act for the pop-punk icon Ariel Pink. Oxford Art Factory, to no protest, is slowly becoming my second home. Ariel has been in the country doing sideshow tours for his Pom Pom album release, stopping down under for the Sugar Mountain festival in Victoria.

Allbrook greeted the crowd in all his casual-yet-awkward demeanour and started with Tramadol, a chill, lo-fi ballad-like mess. Allbrook has always surprised me as a big sound maker for such a timid solo artist. A few hiccups here and there during his set, but Allbrook relishes in his mistakes – his honesty reveals his troubles, but the crowd are usually none the wiser.

I admit, I was most excited to see 100ks round Carmel for its iconic high-pitched sound and wicked intro. Despite being front row to the current POND member, I vaguely recall amongst his mumbling, sharing that the song was about his Grandfather (or both his grandparents). As the lyrics suggest, it is quite a sad song despite its bright psych-pop sounds. There seems to be a level of regret and self-disappointment, based around a death(s) that happened in Carmel, WA.

This sense of storytelling adds a new level of complexity to Allbrook’s character. With delicate guitar work and constant toe point-dancing, Nicholas Allbrook is still a nervous jitterbug on stage, but by the last few songs the house was packed and Allbrook finished his set with a short but snappy Did I Just Arrive Here…?

ariel pink 2Arriving on stage late in a cloud of illicitly scented smoke and spiked Jeffrey Campbell high-heeled Litas, Ariel Pink and his band were welcomed with plenty of cheers and screaming from fans. Pink, and his merry men were clearly in a dazed state when they tore through the first song White Freckles, then Jello.

Ariel is an enigma, a sass-as-fuck androgynous muse with a warm smile and hair that has been bleached to the point of breakage. Despite his weird and wonderful persona, he kept very professional, guiding his baked keyboardist a couple of times through a song, singing lovingly to his fans and smoking on stage like a badass. Pink’s Picture me Gone ballad had the audience singing and swaying, as he belted out vocals powerful enough to physically make you reach for your heart and caress the feels pouring out from within. A clear highlight of the night.

His band consisted of six multi-instrumentalists who also relished in flamboyancy – his keyboardist in a wrestling mask, and his drummer, Don Bolles of the Germs, in a bikini. Pink powered through the set, and the fans stayed calm and supportive despite a couple of drunk girls in the front row screaming his name out as if they were breathing for air in between songs. My temperament was definitely being tested, and sadly they proved to be that much of an annoyance, that it’s hard to reflect back on the gig without a screechy “ARIELLLL IIII LOVEE YOUUUUUU” popping into my head.

At the end of the set, Ariel continued with an encore dedicated to the late Kim Fowley, his producer and fellow pop/rock prankster, who helped him write some tracks from the Pom Pom album from his hospital bedside. He tragically lost his battle with cancer earlier this year.

Overall the evening was a wonderful arrangement of music from the support and main acts.

melissa barrass


Review and photos by Melissa Barrass.