Sensory Overload: Local trio Pretty Pretty not afraid to rough it up at Ace of Cups

By
From the June 26, 2014 edition

In spite of its name, Pretty Pretty wasn’t afraid to rough it up during a recent Monday performance at Ace of Cups.

With massive thunderclouds bearing down on the venue, the local trio, which includes singer/guitarist Evan Wolff, singer/bassist Larry TV (actually a woman, in spite of the stage name) and drummer Jon Washington, crafted its own storm front, bashing through an array of scrappy power-punk numbers that crackled like heat lightning.

Wolff and TV, positioned on opposite sides of the stage, functioned as opposing poles of sorts. TV, dressed in a patterned skirt and wearing librarian glasses, exuded a sense of calm, and there was a languid feel to even her peppiest bass lines. On those numbers she took lead (the two split vocal duties roughly down the middle), the characters tended to express a similar sense of ambiguity or emotional detachment. “It doesn’t matter,” she sang coolly on one otherwise fiery cut.

The tightly wound and wiry Wolff, in contrast, practically vibrated onstage, like a caffeine fiend jonesing for a long-overdue fix. His playing was equally on edge, and his guitar alternately squealed, gnashed, snarled and buzzed. The narrators in his songs, in turn, consistently sounded on the verge of breaking down or falling to pieces. “I can’t get any sleep,” he sang on one tune. Then, on another: “Feeling like I’m gonna crack.”

This constant push-and-pull between singers created a lingering sense of tension that added a further dimension to the magnetic performance. Credit Washington with successfully navigating these potentially choppy waters, coiling like rope on Wolff’s numbers and relaxing just slightly when TV took over.

Keeping the chatter to a minimum — Wolff spoke but once, introducing a song as “one for all you lovers” even though the few discernible lyrics suggested a relationship in shambles — the musicians plowed forward, dispensing of one catchy, slashing cut after another.

While much of the evening was defined by this forward momentum, there were enough eccentricities and unexpected sonic flourishes (the scratchy, tick-tock riff that interrupted one song, and the curtain of feedback that cut off another) to keep things from feeling too repetitive. It’s a still-developing skillset that will be on display when Pretty Pretty takes the stage at Carabar on Thursday, July 10. Don’t miss it.

Andy Downing photo