Pinegrove The Velvet Underground, Toronto ON, September 22

Pinegrove The Velvet Underground, Toronto ON, September 22
Photo: Wendy Wei
Pinegrove's word-of-mouth ascent over the past year has been astounding; the New Jersey quartet have gone from the bottom of multi-band bills to headlining their own tours. But to anyone who fell in love with their sophomore album, Cardinal, the explosion of popularity — on full display at their Toronto stop last night (September 22) — was an inevitability. On board from the opening chords of "Then Again," the crowd were as enthusiastic as one could hope. 
Singer-guitarist Evan Stephens Hall led the band through their surprisingly deep catalogue, slipping reworked versions of old songs and a couple from an apparently completed new record due next spring between cuts from Cardinal. The latter were met with rousing sing-a-longs where the audience rivaled Hall for both volume and enthusiasm. 
For his part, Hall took it all in stride. Not quite bemused, he still appeared impressed that a sold out crowd responded to tales of chemical poisoning and his personal neurosis in such a way. Pausing between almost every song, he was chatty, indulging hecklers and shouting out local acts like dd/mm/yyyy and PUP with a knowing smirk. 
Pinegrove's current incarnation, which includes Hannah Read from openers Lomelda on bass, was on point — yet they retained the loose, ragged edge of their recordings, while also jettisoning some of its more alt-country flourishes (slide guitar, banjo). 
New song "Darkness" showcased Hall's burgeoning songcraft, picking up where Cardinal left off musically, but with tightened arrangement. At set's end they segued from "Old Friends" to "Aphasia," ending with a slow fadeout then leaving the stage.
The band returned to chants of "one more song," but delivered three, closing with "Angelina" from the odds and ends collection Everything So Far
Pinegrove already have the fervent fan base of a band thrice their age. That they're clearly just getting started signals great things to come.

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