“We’re gonna play a lot of songs tonight. It’s the last night of the tour, we’ve got a little bit of gas in the tank, why not? We’re gonna play most of the songs we know,” announced Pinegrove’s Evan Stephens Hall midway through the band’s sold-out show at New York’s Bowery Ballroom on Wednesday. He wasn’t kidding. Wrapping up the first leg of touring behind their excellent new album 11:11 Stephens Hall and co. delivered a knockout 26-song set which, at just about two hours, might have been the longest of their career.
As they have for most of this tour Pinegrove worked the entirety of the new record into the set, kicking things off with energetic takes on “Alaska” and “Cyclone” which they played as if they were well-worn classics. Their performance of “Orange” was another early highlight in the night, with drummer Zack Levine leading the group in a pounding push-and-pull that heightened the drama of the mournful waltz. Levine plays an essential role in Pinegrove’s live sound, adding a sense of rhythmic dynamism – with sudden tempo changes and heavy-hitting fills making each song feel much more urgent and alive – that’s not always present in their studio output. The entire band truly ups the ante on stage though and brought a good amount more sonic muscle to the table on songs like “The Metronome” and “Habitat” (props to the sound engineer as well, whose excellent mixing played just as essential a role) while exploring new dimensions to their sound, particularly in the versatile guitar work from Josh Marre.
There is something special to the energy of Pinegrove’s audience and their interplay with the band, especially in New York City where they’ve long held a dedicated fanbase. The crowd was fully invested from the get-go, already full of pent-up anticipation (the concert had been delayed a week due to a bout of the flu) that only increased over the course of the night. They whooped and cheered at the start of each tune and were jumping and headbanging in unison at the most energetic moments. Songs often felt their most natural when the room was singing along to every word, and even the people shouting unheard requests, or simply “Montclair!” (the band’s NJ hometown) in the lull between songs only added to the experience.
Stephens Hall, who hasn’t hidden his political leanings in recent years, also took a few moments during the show to touch on a range of subjects including the ongoing war in Ukraine (“We sing [“Orange”] with a bit of extra pepper today remembering that war is one of the very least ecological practices on this Earth”), and investing in more effective local politics (“you may have noticed that the federal government isn’t really doing shit”) with shoutouts to the Democratic Socialists of America and NY Assembly candidate Sarahana Strestha, who he and Levine have been volunteering for.
Alongside the new cuts and older favorites they played like “Rings”, “Cadmium”, and “Peeling Off the Bark”, the Bowery show saw the group bust out rarity “On Jet Lag,” from their debut EP Mixtape One, and augment longtime live staple “Angelina” with a briefly jammed out ending featuring a proper guitar solo – something almost unheard of in a Pinegrove song – from Marre.
This show felt like Pinegrove firing on all cylinders, and they closed out the night the only way that seemed appropriate – with a string of massive singalongs on some of the strongest songs from their 2016 breakout Cardinal. The opening notes of “Old Friends”, which they’d inexplicably kept off the setlist throughout this tour, elicited a wave of screams before the whole room joined in with Stephens Hall voice. They followed it up with a stellar rendition of “Aphasia,” which saw Marre take yet another solo, this time featuring some beautiful slide playing, before wrapping things up with supercharged, life-affirming takes on “New Friends” and the show-closing “Size of the Moon”. Pinegrove continues to excel as a live band, turning in the kinds of performances that make the cultish esteem their fans hold them in seem ever more reasonable, with a catalog strong enough to back it up.