Pinback stays in fine form for its latest Vegas visit

Pinback, performing at Backstage Bar & Billiards on February 12.
Photo: Spencer Burton

Three and a half stars

Pinback Backstage Bar & Billiards, February 13.

Not many bands can evoke their home city through their music, but San Diego’s Pinback most certainly does—well, for me, anyway. It’s one major reason I enjoy listening to the indie trio: The experience feels relaxing but refreshing, alternatingly cloudy and sunny. And Thursday night at Backstage Bar & Billiards, Pinback transported me with faithful recreations of its catalog chestnuts.

And yet, the group actively engaged its nearly 200-strong audience by thwarting certain expectations created by the recorded output. It often accelerated the tempos, as it did with the beloved “Fortress.” That song and others—seemingly inspired by the angular guitar/bass interplay of Television and Wire, the tuneful finger-picking and near-mumbled delivery of Kurt Cobain and the subtle R&B pluck of Spoon—highlighted Pinback’s trademark minimalism, though it was often rounded out with synth and keyboard samples that filled in where guitarist/singer Rob Crow, bassist/singer Zach Smith and drummer Chris Prescott couldn’t.

The band’s compositional depth truly bore out during an epic, 11-minute-plus “Grey Machine,” featuring the trio’s great narrative ascension, as well as Smith’s and Crow’s distinct vocal harmonizing—a frequent highlight elsewhere, too. The two also demonstrated how well they complement each other when throwing out their respective chord progressions, as they did during a more sprightly version of old favorite “BBTone.” But they might have shone brightest when their emotional projection transcended their precise handiwork. No one could deny the melodic charms of “Good to Sea,” which Crow robustly belted out, and show-closer “Prog” sounded nearly as triumphant—like a traffic-free highway cruise from Escondido to Coronado Beach.

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