Seeing a band for the second time is much like repeat viewings of a good movie. You get a better idea of what kind of sound the band is aiming for, as well as all the subtle nuances that you may have completely missed the first time around. Not to mention that you look a lot less stupid trying to sing along to their songs. This is the situation I found myself in with Pin Up, who were celebrating their new single “End of the Night”, with the help of special guests What If Elephants and Tim Bednarchuk at Petit Campus. I had been impressed with them the first time I had seen them, but Friday night I really felt like they came into their own.
Before we get to that, let’s talk about solo acoustic act Tim Bednarchuk. Truthfully, he just didn’t fit the vibe of the venue or the other acts he was supporting. He deserves fucking props for even standing up in front of a crowd of that magnitude though. It wasn’t a stadium by any means, but it wasn’t a coffee shop either. Bednarchuk’s songwriting was solid and very reminiscent of early 2000s pop rock groups like Jimmy Eat World mixed with Dashboard Confessional. He also possesses a strong set of pipes that are unfortunately sabotaged by the occasional nasal whine. It fits with what he’s going for perfectly, but it was just a little too much for me. It irritated me in the same way that a vinyl record does when it’s slightly warped. I know there is a beautiful melody in there somewhere, I just don’t have the patience to stick around to find out.
What If Elephants were kind of like an Imagine Dragons–Walk The Moon hybrid that you could easily imagine making it on the radio. This is both a blessing and a curse for the young band. On the one hand, they clearly have songwriting chops; on the other, their mainstream accessibility sometimes gets the better of them. For every catchy and arguably bland dance-pop tune, they displayed an atmospheric, moody side that I wish they would explore further. Their opening moments were spine tingling and a masterclass in suspense. I can only hope that they are concentrating on pushing this side of themselves a little bit more. Sure, it might not make them a lot of money, but they will have fans, like me, for life.
Now we get to the much-hyped Pin-Up. Almost a year ago, I saw them opening for a singer-songwriter by the name of Bayla. I immediately saw the potential in them, but there had been something missing that I couldn’t put my finger on. They just seemed slightly out of sync. I thought the problem was that they were trying to stifle their rock side, or maybe that the sound in the venue that they were playing in sucked giant monkey testicles (which it did). Turns out the problem was that Pin Up needed to focus their sights on being a purely great pop group that properly showcases the vocal talents of Sam Martel.
The change was immediately obvious before the band even set foot on stage. The background had been rigged with lights to spell out the words “Pop,” which I immediately mistook for “Poo” due to the keyboard blocking the end of the last letter. After a good chuckle, and the realization that the two words are sometimes not mutually exclusive, I quickly agreed that there couldn’t be a more apt mission statement. Pin Up is the kind of pop that most pop strives to be.
It also helps that Sam Martel might be one of the best singers I have heard in a very long time. She is one of those rare performers that are both technically proficient AND exploding with heart and soul. She is a slightly more edgy Whitney Houston. She has a gorgeous, spine-tingling voice that isn’t hindered by diva-like tendencies. Credit should be given to the band as well for their songwriting contributions. Even though What If Elephants might be more consistent in this department, “End of the Night” might have been my favorite song of the entire night.
In the end, it is always fun to revisit bands, whether they are headliners or local heroes. Sometimes getting to hear firsthand how someone’s hard work has paid off is the biggest thrill you can have at a show. I’m excited to find out where these three up-and-comers will go, and I highly encourage that you at least see them for the first time. Chances are, once won’t be enough.
Written by Shawn Thicke
Photography by Gabii H-Blanco
*edited by Kate Erickson