Evan Stephens Hall of Pinegrove. All photos by Maia Jacobson/MPR.
Three hours before Pinegrove were even set to take the 7th St Entry’s stage, there was a line of fans queued up outside stretching down past the Depot. Clumps of friends talked about the band’s active Twitter presence, the possible set list, and just how long they’ve all been waiting to finally see the band live. This is what a sold-out Pinegrove show looks like: dedication.
The first opener of the night were Lomelda, a self-described “sad party” band fronted by songwriter Hannah Read (who is also lending some vocals and playing bass for Pinegrove on this tour). She played mostly songs from her latest album, thx, with songs that range from showcasing soft vocals that sort of invite you in for a hug, to dynamic numbers that build to emotion-filled wailing.
Next up were Florist, a band that most Pinegrove fans were just as excited to see as the headliners…but Florist’s music is exciting in a very different way. Their quiet brand of indie-pop has caught steam in the circle of bands that Pinegrove listeners tend to also enjoy. Emily Sprague’s simple, whispery songs made me very aware of how loud my camera’s shutter noise is, but I haven’t ever experienced a crowd that silent. Florist left us with soft smiles and a feeling of contentedness.
Pinegrove hopped on stage soon after and said a quick hello before jumping right into fan-favorite “Angelina” from their 2015 release Everything So Far. They played a few more older songs before lead vocalist Evan Stephens Hall transitioned to newer material by dedicating “Cadmium” (from Cardinal, their most recent LP) to the Liquitex paint company for making cadmium-free paints. “Shout out to Liquitex, this song is for you.”
Pinegrove played three unreleased songs — “Intrepid,” “Patterson and Leo,” and “Darkness” — all of which we were told will appear on their new album that is to come out sometime in the presumably near future. Hall broke up the set with funny little anecdotes about how some of the songs came to be, about their session at The Current earlier in the day, and about how he is recovering from asthmatic bronchitis (he popped a cough drop early in the show, took it out to sing “Old Friends,” but ended up putting it back in mid-song), and about their stuffed sloth, Lincoln.
“Aphasia” came mid-set, and based on how loud everyone was singing along, a heartbreak anthem that seems to be one of their most relatable songs. During the song’s bridge, when the vocals are nearly isolated save for some quiet guitar, Hall took a step back from his mic, smiling as he let the glowing audience take the lead in singing, “One day I won’t need your love/ One day I won’t define myself by the one I’m thinking of.”
The New Jersey natives ended the night with a four-song encore without the pretense of walking offstage, instead announcing, “This is the part when we would normally leave stage for 20 seconds and then come right back, so we’re just gonna stay if that’s alright.” It was guitarist Josh Marre’s 24th birthday, so during “Morningtime” certain audience members put on party hats, balloons were thrown from backstage by the open band members, and a little cake was brought on stage. “You’re all actually at a surprise birthday party, guys. Sorry!” Hall joked with the audience.
Maybe it’s because I’m a big fan of the band, maybe it was because I was standing in the front, but there was something in the grandness of the audience scream-singing to nearly every song that was chill-inducing and magically unifying. There’s nothing artificial about the excitement around Pinegrove; they’ve built their fan support organically, and last night those 250 people wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.