Written by Sam Imhoff
It is rare that a concert experience moves you so deeply that you consider your life as you stand dancing among the crowd. PLEASURES gave an intoxicating performance of high-octane, dark psychedelia that passionately invigorated me. When PLEASURES took the stage last Saturday evening at the Triple Nickel Tavern, a metal head bar on S. Wahsatch St., I was joined by tiny crowd of two dozen hipsters. Despite the meager turnout, PLEASURES electrified the bar from the moment the cymbals sizzled until the close of the show.
Up front, Katherine Kelly played an electric SG guitar that was hooked up to several effect pedals, adding layers of gritty distortion, echoing reverb, and bouncy delay effects. The keyboardist sat lowest in the mix, triggering samples, harmonizing with arpeggios, and singing backup vocals. Punchy grooves from the bassist reverberated from his bass guitar and sub-bass keyboard. The drummer thrashed out beats at a blistering tempo. His tight snare and crisp hi-hats cut through the reverberating wall of guitar like lightning piercing through a brooding cloud. The eclectic instrumental sounds buffeted my ears in waves of blissful distortion and dark, alluring harmonies. Finally, Kelly suffused the instrumentation with lyrics of heartbreak and drug abuse, her vocals feeding through pedals that robotized her voice. Her strident tone added an edge to the sound. Flooding about the instrumentation and not cutting through it, the vocals colored the wall of sound perfectly, adding character without demanding undue attention.
PLEASURES called out like a siren, beckoning you to wade into the sound and drown in intoxication and hedonistic pleasures. Immersed in Kelly’s immaculate guitar playing, I stood in front, and was swept away. The uneasy trance I felt bobbing there evoked a vulnerability I hadn’t experienced in years. Holistically, the gorgeous sound of the band gave me a sense of wonder and reminded me of the limitless beauty and power of music, art, and life when you listen with your whole self. In this self-conscious society it’s all too common to wear a mask of phlegmatic coolness where a composed face and disengagement signals your superiority to those around you. It’s “in” to be apathetic, cynical, and narcissistic. Through becoming excited by life and dropping the facade, the judgment of others—paradoxically—becomes unimportant. By living passionately and investing in your surroundings, the peripheral view fades away.
While dancing to the PLEASURES in front of the crowd, despite being a standout from the familiar bar-goers, I forgot their judgment and lost my insecurity. Unfortunately, listening to PLEASURES’ studio album, “Fucked Up Dreams Come True,” was thoroughly disappointing. Where the live mix at the Triple Nickel Tavern washed me over in waves of gorgeous sound, studio versions of the same songs sounded over processed in my headphones. The instrumentation is too individuated, lacking the cohesion of the live sound. Kelly’s voice was subtle and alluring live, but affected voice feels gimmicky and annoying, as though the label wanted to force a uniqueness on the band.
Despite the disappointment, I’m looking forward to PLEASURES future projects, and I hope that the group finds that their energetic, shoegaze-y sound best suits them while on tour. It’s a true mark of talent when a band’s live performance is superior to their in-studio recording. It means that they are talented instrumentalists and, more importantly, that they feed off of the energy of the crowd and their passion for playing.