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Concert Review: Ariel Pink meets Henry Miller

Ariel Pink performs at the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur

Ariel Pink performs at the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur

by Mari Stauffer

As we wove our way down Highway 1, the setting sun illuminated the vast and beautiful coastline that is the majesty of Big Sur. Tucked away in a redwood grove along the highway is the Henry Miller Memorial Library which was built by a friend of the late writer and actually occupies this friend’s old residence. It’s a modest wooden cabin with a wraparound deck and grass clearing in the front, which is where they host many types of shows and performances.

This may be my favorite venue. We came to see Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti play here, and then camp and enjoy Big Sur the next couple of nights. After parking the car, we decided to get some food at the fabulous Nepenthe restaurant just up the road, and watch the sunset for a bit on the amazing cliffside deck.

While walking there, who comes ambling down the path in an off-the-shoulder Roxy Music shirt, clutching a beer in one hand? None other than Ariel Pink himself. He was gracious and friendly and indulged us in our “Can we take pictures with you?” fan moment. Finding out, after a quick chat with him, that he and I both studied at UC Santa Cruz at the same time was a fun bonus. After finding out I am a buyer at Streetlight Records, he remarked with a smile that he remembers going in there, and when the store first opened in Santa Cruz.


At the venue, we were greeted by the always-friendly people at the gate. We got there in time to see a bit of the second opening act, Holy Shit, whose music was reminiscent of the catchy hooks of 1980s synth pop, but with a current edge.

When it came time for Ariel Pink, people filled the lawn in front of the stage in anticipation. By the first note of their first song, Ariel was down among the crowd on the lawn belting out his quirky lyrics while shaking his blonde hair in front of his face, getting into his groove. The whole band had wigs on, and Ariel himself was decked out in a red sweatshirt with a shark graphic, and tight white leggings.

The show was an entertaining mixture of visual and audio delight. There is an odd sincerity in his music, which often has somewhat nonsensical, endearingly ridiculous lyrics. The style of lo-fi, trippy folk-pop music he makes is not only interesting to watch performed live, but fun.

Most of the songs are hard to not dance to, but if dancing isn’t your thing, Ariel and his band’s tripped-out presence onstage and inventive music and lyrics are more than enough to keep you intrigued.

The whole show was great, and the intimate size and nature of the venue allows performers and spectators to mingle comfortably, as we found out when we ended up sitting with Ariel after the show, getting him a beer and chatting under the amazing clear night sky.

A special “Thank You” to Britt Govea at Folkyeah Presents for always booking quality artists and coming through with well-executed shows. Keep on the lookout for future Folkyeah Presents events, you won’t be disappointed.

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