Ariel Pink/Psychic Ills Zoobizarre, Montreal QC - February 21, 2006

In the year it's been open, Zoobizarre has lived up to its name. Looking like the hidden dungeon of some long-forgotten European castle, the cavernous room has become the preferred venue for under-the-radar parties, touring bands and the occasional police raid. In other words, as fitting a place as any to see off-kilter Paw Tracks darling Ariel Pink on a rare tour. A one-man band (and studio), Pink has admitted to not liking playing live shows or with other musicians. So a few weeks before the tour began, he raised the stakes by inviting local musicians in each city to form his band for the day. It was a prospect that guaranteed spontaneity, but also assumed a risk. To raise the stakes even further, Pink had Psychic Ills open for him, a four-piece that has a way of seamlessly blending together the best aspects of the original Amon Duul with the discursive repetition of Spacemen 3, all while pushing in hints of White Light-era Velvet Underground. They're that rare kind of band that turns heads as soon as they're on, the kind that set the bar high in an opening slot: too high, unfortunately, for Ariel Pink. The Ariel Pink live experience, as its stands, leaves much to be desired. On record, Pink is shrouded in mystery, but onstage, alone with his pre-programmed drums and whiny synth, he doesn't hold up so well. The karaoke arrangement emphasises the brattiness of his singing voice, not to mention the lyrics that don't go anywhere. A half hour later, the local musicians joined him on stage and the show devolved into watching some guys, none of whom were crack musicians, jam together for the first time. It's all pretty effortless, though sometimes some effort can go a long way.