Comfort was tough to come by at Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right Thursday night. As fans decked out in denim, floral prints, and flannel waited to see garage-psych prankster Ariel Pink, they had a choice to make: Hang out in the perma-cloud of cigarette haze out front and risk a poor spot or cram into the packed bar area with fellow diehards. Mac DeMarco stood outside puffing a cigarette, while hushed whispers pointed out that yes, that was really Sky Ferreira weaving her way around the bar. If Williamsburg is the nexus of hipsterdom, then Baby’s All Right is its focal point.
Fans needed to maximize comfort, because Pink was running late. Scheduled to go on at 11:30, a sprawling soundcheck—where Pink gave the songs off his new record, pom pom, a final dry run before their live premiere—delayed the set, until some began to wonder if he’d show up at all. “He’s going to come out,” one fan from Boston assured me. “I saw him in Boston. Did he come out 45 minutes late? Yes. Did he only play for 35 minutes, most of it on his back, before leaving the stage? Yes. But were those the greatest 35 minutes of music? You bet. He’s going to come out.”
Pink finally made his way onstage at 12:56 a.m., his blond mop tamed by a black bowler, his eyes cooly shrouded by aviators. A tight, reflective pink shirt stretched across his chest, Pink tore through nearly all the songs off his new record—the first without his Haunted Graffiti ensemble—in an 85-minute, often brilliant show.
pom pom is, at its core, an alienation manifesto. Long known as one of indie music’s chief weirdos, Pink constantly tosses out tidbits of skepticism: “Don’t believe what you see” on glammed-out dirge “Four Shadows,” “the mannequins are so afraid” on hippie-circus jaunt “Plastic Raincoats In the Pig Parade.” Alongside the goofy schtick of Ariel’s studio recordings—he perpetually toes the line between genius and annoyance—his lyrics can seem inconsequential. But given the teeth of a backing band and the Baby’s All Right’s clientele, Pink’s set felt like his coronation as some sort of hipster king. pom pom doesn’t hit shelves for another six weeks, but nearly every person in attendance—faces painted, clad in secondhand treasures—reveled in Pink’s strangely entrancing aura and treated the unreleased songs as age-old anthems.
Pink pulled some amusing stunts, like crowd surfing with a Miller High Life and shouting many of his lyrics through a megaphone, but none of them would’ve worked without his lyrical sincerity and undeniable groove. “White Freckles” seamlessly twitched from manic rave-up to atmospheric slow funk, as the crowd moshed and slow danced accordingly. Pink adapted 1960s garage-psych with a dark cover of “She’s Gone” by the Dovers, and later channeled glam-king T.Rex on “Dayzed Inn Daydreams” and encore “Sexual Athletics.”
Strictly speaking, Pink played phenomenally: The riffs were tighter, his voice was spot on, and the performance was a hell of a lot of fun, to boot. But the bizarro audience wasn’t concerned with Pink’s technicality, or whether the songs rocked way harder live than they do in the studio (they do); tonight Pink had assembled a couple hundred devotees, affirming that a place existed for them to exorcise their alienation. That place was Baby’s All Right.