Ariel Pink unleashes pop fantasy and Dedicated to Bobby Jameson in Vancouver

Ariel Pink at Venue, 10/20/17

Photo courtesy of Mexican Summer
Photo courtesy of Mexican Summer

On tour for his newest album, Dedicated to Bobby Jameson, Ariel Pink brought his hypnagogic pop to Vancouver’s Venue this past Friday (Oct. 20). The show was straight dopamine wash and pop dynamism.

Bobby Jameson was a Los Angles musician, semi-famous in the 60’s, who vanished from the city and the scene, before emerging three decades later in 2007 to tell his story of addiction, attempted suicide, and, according to Jameson, being shucked and chucked by the music industry. Now, Ariel Pink, himself a semi-famous pop product of Los Angeles, is taking the tale of Bobby Jameson on tour.

Vancouver likes the semi-famous; you can know them before they become cultural franchises, plus the shows are better— you can’t truly dance in a stadium seat, can you? A mostly young crowd turned out for Ariel Pink, packing Venue, coat-checking the raincoats, and dancing up some body-steam.

The crowd got moving with “Another Weekend” off the new album, which is ironically a sighing retrospective of a weekend spent in excess— “To log me in and out of my life…another weekend out of my life.”

Pink followed with “Feels like Heaven,” a love song that is simpler and less sarcastic than expected from a musician who normally has a tongue in both cheeks. The lights behind the band shone blue and purple. The crowd packed in, amoeba-damp and quivering. Pink raised a hand out over the audience, the strap of his mesh top continually falling off his shoulder.

The more grounded lo-fi narratives of Dedicated to Bobby Jameson were interspaced with the aural assault of pom pom, mature themes, and older albums (Pink has more than a dozen). The pounding drums of “Time to Live” got the crowd moving. The lyrics blended the borderlines of the two states, life/death, there will be time enough for both in the end. Pink’s music is so aurally rich that it’s easy to start digging through the sonics, expecting a deeper message. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a few good lines—“You cannot die, you have to live, that’s what it’s for.” If you’re smart, you’ll just dance.

Dream Date Narcissist” had just the right rhythm to stir the audience into a spiralling, good-natured mosh-pit. This is a boy-meets-girl song for these Tinder times—”She’s sending me an Uber ’cause she wanted some dick.” Like many of the songs of the songs of Dedicated to Bobby Jameson, it’s almost cynical, almost a critique, and then almost a celebration. During the title track, Pink laid back flat on the stage, while those in the audience close to him tried and failed to lift him onto their shoulders. A few odd moments passed, with Pink disappearing into a caress of hands, before, finally, being hoisted into the air. He kept singing as the crowd surfed him through the air, before dumping him, headfirst, back onto the stage.

Bobby Jameson’s story is about the fame machine and how it failed him. “The pursuit of fame is as deadly as any narcotic I have ever used,” Bobby Jameson writes in the header of his blog. Pink may have dedicated his album to Jameson, but he is living a different experience, that of a career artist habouring zero illusions about the industry. Pink doesn’t seem like he is chasing fame so much as moving a pop experience. He showed up at the merch table at the end of the show, looking pale and tired in selfies with his young fans. The line to buy vinyl and “Time to Die” t-shirts stretched across the exit, making it hard to leave because everyone wanted more.