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Thursday, 14 November 2013 09:52

Concert review: Pure Bathing Culture (with Andy Berkhout of Trotting Bear) floods the Old Rock House with sound, Tuesday, November 12

Concert review: Pure Bathing Culture (with Andy Berkhout of Trotting Bear) floods the Old Rock House with sound, Tuesday, November 12 facebook.com/purebathingculture
Written by Blair Stiles
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Located between Broadway's historic blues' venues and Soulard's brassy drinking establishments, the Old Rock House has hosted a bevy of EDM acts this year, along with its usual slate of rock, R&B and folk musicians.

On Tuesday night, the ORH's sound system provided a booming depth to Pure Bathing Culture's manufactured beats. The sound felt indigenous to the EDM parties curated by the club. The pulse of Pure Bathing Culture's drum machine bounded alongside Brian Wright's cymbal-focused percussion and flowed across the length of the venue.

A similar effect occurred when Trotting Bear's Andy Berkhout (sans bandmates) opened the night with placid acoustic renditions of Trotting Bear's wobbly folk numbers. The vibration off Berkhout's guitar plucks could be heard through the din of murmured conversations that spilled out amongst drinkers and diners.

It was a difficult night to play a show. The winter wind blistered any unprotected section of skin, MGMT was tripping out half of St. Louis' dilettantes at the Peabody, and local act Union Tree Review played its last gig at Off Broadway. About 30 patrons filed in on Tuesday night. Several of them cornered Pure Bathing Culture's bassist Zach Tillman to ask him about his older brother, the gyrating muse of psychopsilocybin, Josh Tillman aka Father John Misty. Clearly, they had never heard of Zach Tillman's solo project, Pearly Gate Music. Baby Tillmans' own well-orchestrated folk with a macabre edge could have been an economical and welcome opener for Pure Bathing Culture.

After Berkhout played a slow-rolled, five-song set, that when mated with an Old Fashioned and fatigue felt like mainlined melatonin, Pure Bathing Culture mounted the stage and proceeded to pick up the tempo. They began with "Twins" off this year's full-length "Moon Tides." Pure Bathing Culture oozed a relaxed vibe that carried on through its set. Singer and keyboardist Sarah Virsprille exhibited a range larger than the terse croons of "Moon Tides." Her lofty upper-range was an elegant addition to PBC's nine-song electro-indie slow dance. It helped divvy up the weightier moments of songs like "Lucky One." Virsprille sang with a furrowed brow during the majority of the songs -- her bald-faced frustration over the song's subjects still seemed to cling to her back. Virspille was intense in the way female singers should be. She was sensitive but never obsequious in her relationship with the audience or songs.

Guitarist Daniel Hindman played intriguing tones through several guitar patches. On "Silver Shore's Lake" his guitar was worked over by what he later noted as a "Boss delay" combined with several others to conjure up a bewitching synth-like wail as he soloed in bliss. His guitar remained in a Nord-like voice until PBC played its cover for the evening wherein Hindman adopted a more classic rock-geared tone.

Apart from the lyrics, however, PBC's rendition of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" was utterly unrecognizable. So fooled was the audience that several members dropped jaws when Virsprille mimed Stevie Nick's caw. PBC barely adhered to "Dreams" iconic chord progression. Instead, they played in a way that sounded like a PBC B-side that mirrored the malaise of "Dreams" and ganked its lyrics right out from under Nick's legacy. The cover underscored Pure Bathing Culture's musical imagination, a creativity as large as the sound that echoed through the Old Rock House.

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