A hotel venue, a rooftop bar, a DSA table booth, a view of the Atlantic Ocean, the Manhattan skyline, and the A train line. Not your average NYC gig, and Evan Stephens Hall and the rest of his Pinegrove made it uniquely energetic and communal. The show focused on deep album cuts for the long-time fans sprinkled in with their hits for the fans destined to become long-time supporters.
Following a strong opening set by Texas-based indie group Why Bonnie, Pinegrove opened the show with “Moment” from their 2020 album Marigold. Upon hearing the first note, the intimate but devout crowd immediately lit up with recognition and excitement. The energy in the room remained just as high throughout the whole set, a testament to Pinegrove’s cult following. It seemed as if everyone was singing along to all of the lyrics, experiencing their personal connections to the music in this collective setting. Only when Pinegrove played an unreleased song, returning to a softer folk sound, did the group grow quiet.
Their latest album 11:11 centers around climate anxiety, frustration with lack of action by our leaders, and a need for urgent change in the way we structure our society. You could feel this deeply not only from listening to their lyrics at the show, but also in their emphases, their between-songs comments, their emotions, and the audience’s feelings and reactions.
This group is not interested in letting their soapbox go unused. Evan, the lead singer and frontman, revealed himself to be a card-carrying Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) member, and he used his platform to speak about the Sunrise movement and local democratic socialist primary campaigns including those of David Alexis in Brooklyn and Kristen Gonzalez in Queens. He invited two DSA volunteers to the show to set up a table booth to encourage attendees to vote in the primary elections being held the following Tuesday.
As a fan of the band and a young person extremely concerned and anxious about our flawed societal structure and the state of our shared planet, I found this effort extremely refreshing. The next week, one of the two candidates successfully upset an establishment candidate and will be headed to the New York state senate in the new year to advocate for public healthcare, combating climate change, and various other policies for the people.
Pinegrove commands a soft sound while managing to fit into the rock genre. This unique sound, best exemplified in their songs “Aphasia,” “Darkness,” “Easy Enough,” “Alaska,” “Habitat” and more, is what brings the sonical listener satisfaction and desire to dig deeper into their discography. The lyrical listener is guaranteed to enjoy the band – what other band makes the word “dilapidated” a point of emphasis during a peak choral moment? Separately, the stories Pinegrove tells entangle the personal and the collective. Songs “Let” and “Respirate” describe feelings of regret, dismay, and frustration with oneself and one’s fellows. “Orange” and “11th Hour” speak more broadly to society at large and how we fail to save ourselves from environmental catastrophe.
Despite focusing on often painful and alarming themes, Pinegrove’s body of work is largely comforting and hopeful. Through the strife they colorfully describe, we recognize ourselves in each other and we are reminded of the beauty of a natural world worth saving.