The mood of the night was determined long before Pinback ever took the stage. When a hefty drunk man began thrashing around to the pre-show soundtrack like it was a Smashing Pumpkins concert, it became clear what kind of night it was going to be.
Pinback’s gigs are the biggest contradictions in the music business. The San Diego-based band, which consists of main players Rob Crow (vocals, guitar) and Zach Smith (vocals, bass), produces some of the mellowest music around, yet their shows are anything but sedate. Imagine crowd surfers and mosh pits that resemble an Ozzy Osbourne concert, but swap the Mohawks and Doc Martins for fringe haircuts and dress shirts (on account of the horse races.)
The annual hometown gig kicked off with the transparent curtain sticking to the pole, and Pinback’s “dramatic” entrance slipping away inch by inch as the curtain crawled across the pole. Crow and company’s sheepish smiles and timid waves were met with a roar from the crowd. The band launched into an array of songs ranging from deep cuts “I’m a Pretty Lady,” “Sleep/Bath,” and “Trainer,” to hit singles like “Fortress,” “Good to Sea,” and “A.F.K.”
Pinback also teased the crowd with new material like “Sherman” and “Hatenaughts.” The latter track boasted a unique blend of bass and guitar, weaved together to create a thumping rhythm that excited the crowd. During the classic song “Penelope,” bassist Zach Smith demonstrated his unusual, original fingering techniques, which made the song all the more mesmerizing. The hesitant dance steps of the crowd was replaced by a frenzy of flailing and jumping when the opening lines of “Fortress” played.
“For some reason, even though this is our slowest song, it seems to have the most floaters,” Crow marveled during “Loro,” referring to the rowdy crowd dynamic, “so let’s just get this out of our systems all at once, okay?” Right on cue, dozens of teenagers popped up and began crowd-surfing as the lulling song took flight. From then on, it was an epic battle between crowd and security with Rob Crow, Zach Smith and co. acting as weary spectators.
“C’mon ladies! You’re invited to the mosh pit too!” Crow commented as the circle of pushing and shoving adolescent boys grew larger during the outro of “Walters.” Pinback finished off their main set with Blue Screen Life’s “F.N.T.N.” The band was in top form all night, and their songs flowed effortlessly from one to the next. It took the crowd half the set to wake up but, once they did, the atmosphere was jolly and rambunctious. If you missed out on one of the best gigs of the year in San Diego, fear not. There’s always next year.