The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Hatcham Social, Veronica

Alisha Ahmed 04/08/2009

With a sold out date, on their second visit to London as headliners, the cutest band of the year so far seems to also be London's favourite band of the moment, and on the 4th of August, I was with it 101%. I've been having an ongoing love affair with The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart since they were my favourite opening act at The Great Escape in Brighton last May. Back then, they played at an over-crowded Po-Na-Na, so over-crowded in fact, that us photographers were actually hanging on the staircase at the side of the stage, just to be there, witnessing the sparkling performance by these New Yorkers. They hadn't been given much credit by the festival organisers back then, considering the small venue and the single lonely stage slot they had been given during the 3-day indie extravaganza. Still, even then, they played a set full of passion and happiness, which they replicated at Cargo in June and for which they got rewarded with an amazing sold out, filled up venue, even if the gig happened to be on the most infamous day of the year, due to the London Tube Strike.

On the 4th of August, at The Relentless Garage, in Islington, the story played the same way again, only with added bonuses. They got upgraded to the biggest stage I've seen them on so far and, for the first time, they had actual barriers to contain the crowd's enthusiasm. After two support acts, they got on stage, and they did not fail to bring a smile to everyone's face (and to get people to start jumping up and down). The thing that fascinates me about them is how their music is evocative and nostalgic of a time they should not be quite old enough to remember. Yet, behind their kid-like looks they are all in their late 20s, and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart is the adventure they embarked on in the last couple of years. But where the unstoppable late 80s revival mainstream can just pick from the evocative synthesizers cliché, they managed to resemble the softer side of that decade. Where it was emotional with, say, the first-era of The Cure, it is a continuous happy frenzy with The Pains Of Being At Heart. Plus, how can you not love a band which has a name that is also pretty much a statement? I know "The Pains of Being Pure at heart" has been chosen because it was the name of a yet-unpublished novel written by a friend of the band, but that sort of pureness, endurance and humbleness that's in that name also comes out in every performance by the band. The singer, Kip Berman tries from time to time to interact with the crowd, but the truth is that he's probably wondering if everything's going okay, and that ability to self-question is part of the tender appeal of this band, along with the infectious smile that always comes from keyboardist Peggy Wang, who always seems to have some funny story or anecdote to tell the crowd, creating those moments where you truly start to see why this band managed to gather a following made up not just of appreciative listeners, but also of caring fans. An encore was strongly demanded by the crowd, but still that wasn't enough; luckily, the lovely Pains themselves thought well in organizing a free after party, open to everyone, at The Buffalo Bar, just across the street from the Garage, where Peggy entertained the crowd as a guest DJ herself. In just a few months, they grew from the black and white cover of their self-titled album, decorating windows of all the Urban Outfitters around the world, to be the poppiest, loveliest, indie thing around and the melodic guitar fix we were in much need of!