By Joseph Sutton-Holcomb / Special to The Seattle Times
Shows at The Vera Project can be odd. It may be the only music venue of its size in the city that doesn’t rely on booze to coax folks through the door. This, combined with the nonprofit’s penchant for booking cult and lesser-known acts makes for spotty attendance.
Saturday was no exception. People trickled in quietly, but steadily, for the Pains of Being Pure at Heart show. There were several dozen people present for Ablebody, the first opener, but they were so serene it felt like fewer.
Frankly, it was a relaxing change. Such calm atmospheres are rare, and in this case allowed those present to focus on the musicianship of the three acts.
Ablebody, a three-piece indie rock group, was clearly well-practiced. The band pumped out alacritous jams that were consistently snappy and melodic, albeit a bit rote. All the members (singer/guitarist, bassist, and drummer) harmonized frequently, creating vocal combinations reminiscent of ‘60s era pop groups.
Fear of Men followed, with singer Jessica Weiss and bassist Becky Wilkie continuing the harmony precedent to great effect. The crowd remained nearly imperturbable — the three kids dancing in the corner were conspicuously out of place.
But Fear of Men’s tempo invites this sort of concert experience. It’s shadowy and reserved, with lots of “oohs” and lyrics like “I’m young and I’m selfish and I’m living with regret.” Their set was a cultured, introspective affair, with the exception of a rawboned jam session at the very end.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart were by far the loudest group that evening, though singer Kip Berman began with a solo guitar performance of ”Art Smock.” It was much more intimate than the version appearing on the band’s forthcoming LP “Days of Abandon.”
Then the full band launched into “Heart in your Heartbreak,” the group’s obligatory sing-a-long song. This perked the crowd right up. Berman’s a live wire on stage, sweating and jumping jerkily about. His enthusiasm was contagious.
Fear of Men’s Weiss played keys and sang backup for Pains that night, and her contributions were invaluable. She delivered her supporting vocals with the personality and confidence of a front woman, balancing out Berman’s poetically overwrought voice.