Pink Mountaintops Waldorf Hotel, Vancouver, BC, December 15

Pink Mountaintops Waldorf Hotel, Vancouver, BC, December 15
Photo: Alan Ranta
Principal mountaineer Stephen McBean represented Pink Mountaintops primarily solo this evening. Now spending most of his time in Los Angeles, after falling in love with one of those famous California girls, he doesn't play much around his native BC these days. But since we're so close to Xmas and he was likely up here to visit his friends and family anyway, Vancouver was treated with a slight return of its favourite son.

With his long, gnarly hair and frosted beard, McBean opened with the contemplative "Comas" from Axis of Evol, performed with only his vocals and a black electric guitar. Subtle drum machine percussion and a synth line was introduced for the second track, "I (Fuck) Mountains," from the collective's eponymous 2004 debut.

Softly closing his eyes when he sang, casually manipulating his guitar, McBean was sublime for the first two songs. He doesn't have an overly flashy style, attempting to exude raw emotion with every word and tone. He seems to be a no-gimmicks kinda guy, a true believer.

Yet by the third track, "The Gayest of Sunbeams," from the most recent Outside Love, he'd kicked his drum machine into overdrive. The machine incessantly pounded flavourless beats that often washed him out and dominated the sound for the rest of the set, making him sound like a depressing Ratatat.

Still, despite the abusive, sterile drum machine, there were a few nice moments. About a half-hour into the set, fellow Black Mountain member Joshua Wells (also of Lightning Dust) and Ashley Webber (the Organ) came out for a few numbers, adding backing vocals, floor tom and tambourine to "Plastic Man, You're the Devil" and a particularly tribal version of "Slaves." The added organic timbres greatly enriched the sound, placing McBean's hypnotic style in a more complementary context.

At the same time as Wells and Webber were doing their thing, a guy came out stage-right with a cake and full bottle of Courvoisier. He cut pieces of the cake, handing them out to the crowd at first and eventually throwing them, followed by a distribution of shots until the bottle was empty. People at the front were surprisingly generous in passing the booty back to the crowd behind them.

Capping the evening, Black Mountain's Amber Webber (and the other half of Lightning Dust) came out to help sing "Tourist in Your Town" from the band's 2004 debut. Given all that's happened to McBean and company over the past eight years, it was a rather poignant climax to the festive set.