ARCHIVE of District of Cacophony

October 30, 2009 | REVIEWS

Pinback & Obits @ Black Cat, 10/28/09

At a Wednesday-night happy hour with a couple friends, debating whether to do prosaic things like go to our respective homes and do laundry, I mentioned that I was mildly interested in going to the Black Cat to see Pinback and Obits. Thanks to one of those friend’s recent obsession with Hot Snakes (whose singer Rick Froberg now heads Obits) and the general sense that it was a good night to abandon prosaism, we headed over in time to catch most of Obits and all of Pinback. It was a good choice.

I saw Obits about six months ago and thought they were even better this time. The sound on the mainstage seemed a little off but they put on a great performance… a little snarlier and punkier than the last time. I’m a big fan of old dudes rocking hard and I have been listening to Obits off and on this year and like them a lot. I still don’t think they are quite as good as Hot Snakes but they might be approaching the same level.

I expected Obits to be good and they delivered. But I had pretty low expectations for Pinback. I went through a Pinback phase a few years back (and I really love the album Summer in Abbadon) but I kind of lost interest in them over time. I tried to see them one or twice and never quite made it, but I downloaded some live stuff by them and found it pretty weak. Somehow I picked up the idea that Pinback were just not a very good live band. I still liked their music but gradually lost most interest in ever seeing them live.

But I was not gonna miss them once I already paid for the ticket. And I was impressed! They sounded pretty great. For all the times I listened to Abbadon and the lesser amount of time I’ve listened to other stuff by them, I never had a clear sense that Rob Crow and Armistead Smith were such equal partners in the singing and frontmanship; I’d always thought Crow was the main dude. So I was startled to find that I couldn’t figure out which one he was… their voices are very similar. (Aside: though I wouldn’t recognize him, I saw Rob Crow perform once before, many eons ago, when Physics played at the Kalorama House… ancient history indeed.)

Here they are doing “Sender”:

I do feel that Pinback is a little too pretty, a little too restrained. To a certain extent, it’s indie rock-lite, background make-out music for hipsters. But I still kinda love it. And they wrote one of my all-time favorite lyrics, as I’ve mentioned before, with “I miss you, not in a Slint way, but I miss you.” After they sang that bit (from “A.F.K.”) I was ready to leave, satisfied. Thanks, Pinback! Sorry I doubted you! I will have to figure out what live stuff of theirs I downloaded in the past and replace it with something new.

Here’s a Pinback photo via