by Adam McGrath
Listening to the sweet pulse of Pure Bathing Culture Tuesday night made me wish I had someone to make out with, and that was before the two drunk girls starting sucking face at the end of the bar. Guitarist Daniel Hindman and keyboardist Sarah Versprille created a bubble of sensuality that kept the small but attentive crowd at Johnny Brenda’s swaying in rhythm as they played songs from their new album Moon Tides (Partisan).
The first song of the night may have been my favorite; the older tune, “Lucky One.” The vocal melody and dreamy guitar were a perfect launching pad to newer songs like “Scotty,” “Twins,” and lead single “Pendulum.” The crowd and I also loved “Ivory Coast,” another song off the initial EP.
There were some clear fans in the crowd, and I asked the young ladies next to me how they came to know Pure Bathing Culture. They told me they saw them open for Father John Misty earlier this year, and were hooked. You have to love when it works like that. As a newcomer to the band, I was caught by surprise when I recognized the chorus of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” coming from the stage. I discovered the band had recorded it for a compilation, and it was completely natural to hear Stevie Nicks coming out of Versprille’s mouth. The band’s sound ranges from the 70s to The Shins without ever needing to take root on solid ground. The set closed with “Dream the Dare,” with the singer telling us to “come down slower” and “find [our] way home”.
The music Pure Bathing Culture makes sounds like it’s influenced by celestial bodies, as echoing guitar lines push and pull the sea of the keyboard while the drum pad ticks behind this eternal exchange. Versprille’s voice sometimes twinkles above the music like stars, while other times she exerts its full gravitational force in a powerful crescendo. The singer really gets into her performance, dancing in place and riding the wave of the extended instrumental sections, eyes rolling back in ecstasy. There is a clear connection between Versprille and Hindman, and their stage show is better for it.
Alex Bleeker and the Freaks opened the show, and came across as more traditional railroad rock group akin to The Grateful Dead. There was a good tempo to the music, but the lead guitar was overpowering, sounding like a banjo being plucked, and the vocal harmonies didn’t quite meld.