Christopher Vanderkooy shreds on the electric guitar during a Peach Pit performance at 9:30 Club on April 2, 2022. (Photo by Casey Vock)
Though naturally some of a band’s recorded material is going to create some expectations of its in-person sound, a musical act doesn’t have to let its studio work define its live presentation.
But whether it’s by foresight or luck, the bulk of some artists’ songbooks turns out to be scalable thanks to either a set trajectory or built-in room for improvisation to expand and amplify the sound.
Peach Pit, a red-hot indie pop-rock outfit out of Vancouver, has experienced a rapid rise to popularity since its two founding members graduated high school. As students, Neil Smith and Christopher Vanderkooy teamed up in 2014 to create what began as a possible one-off music project.
But they stuck together. Neil’s vocals and rhythm guitar skills continued to flourish as he was also a member of BC folk project Dogwood and Dahlia. And Christopher — while holding a job as an Amazon delivery driver — dug in and began to hone what would become his infinitely impressive knack for explosive, climactic fits on the electric guitar.
In June 2016, Smith and Vanderkooy released their first EP as Peach Pit, a four-song offering including the eponymous song from which the band took its title. Fast-forward to September of the next year, and the band was buzzing from the Billboard Canada Rock chart success of its single “Alrighty Aphrodite” and about to release its full-length studio album, Being So Normal.
Needless to say, the day jobs had to go, and for good reason, as Peach Pit would find itself from 2017 to 2018 touring through not only North America but Europe and Asia as well, utilizing slick promotional and marketing tactics and leveraging today’s digital and social resources to draw interest and new fans to their live shows. And, as their head-turning numbers indicate, Peach Pit’s sound is one appealing to a wide, international following to make it one of British Columbia’s most adored band’s today — one nominated for Breakthrough Group of the Year at the 2021 Juno Awards.
Stream Peach Pit’s newly released studio album, From 2 to 3, via Spotify:
And as a sold-out 9:30 Club crowd would see and hear the night of April 2, Peach Pit’s live shows translate to something almost unexpectedly more ambitious, thrillingly free-wheeling and zestful in both context and sound. Even the most laid-back tracks Peach Pit has premiered through digital streaming platforms proved they can take on a far more adventurous arc than the ear might anticipate from a studio version.
The swift and nonchalant set opened to emphatic “PEACH PIT!” chants from the audience and saw the now-five-piece band open up with “Brian’s Movie,” a track from the 2020 album You and Your Friends and a worthy example of this band’s ability to combine casual and amorously contemplative lyrics with delightful, incalculable guitar melodies that ascend with an inundating and absorbing escalation of varying accents.
Watch the official video for Peach Pit’s new single, “Vickie,” via the band’s official YouTube channel:
After treating the packed, boisterous crowd to a dripping, whimsical version of the group’s title track, Neil stoked those in the room with the beginning of a playful back-and-forth that would add character to the night’s performance.
“How’s it going DC?” he asked, and the response was loud.
“This is like 10 times bigger than any other DC show we’ve played. Anyone here for the last show we did?”
Some claimed to be.
“Well, we love you. Fuck the rest of you!”
The crowd belly laughed, Neil cackled and from the very first note of “Black Licorice”, the band — including longtime bassist Pete Wilton and drummer/harmonica whiz Mikey Pascuzzi — melded an uncommon resonance, one already discussed as conjuring sounds of surf rock and various pop micro-genres. But there was no question where the band’s energy came from, as both Smith and Vanderkooy let loose in a frantic display of precision and nuttiness, culminating with the two of them pressing their heads together like two Colorado rams in what amounted to a mid-solo standoff while the crowd celebrated.
Vanderkooy in particular, as is common knowledge among devout listeners and likely an attraction for first-time viewers/hearers, is an eye-popping, mind-blowing performer on the electric guitar with a glorious mullet on top of it all.
All eyes were on Christopher any time he stepped up to the front of the 9:30 Club stage, sweat dripping from his pores, and put all his physical energy and mental focus into yanking not just wild licks from the strings, but passages that defined the tempo and texture of some of the most exciting songs of the night, like “Private Presley,” a provocative, psychedelic “Live at the Swamp” and a what manifested as a grungy and bluesy take on “Sweet FA,” from the band’s original EP.
Watch the official video for Peach Pit’s new single, “Give Up Baby Go,” via the band’s official YouTube channel:
From 2 to 3, the new studio album that dropped last month, got significant air time, with bright offerings like “Up Granville,” a bouncing, flirtatious “Vickie,” and deep into the set, “Give Up Baby Go,” a charming piece that saw ticketholders boogying all the way back in the Hall of Records.
Neil, with his pleasing tone and the ability to fluctuate its pace and volume, showed himself to be an assured and proficient leader, taking his opportunities to step right onto the barricade off stage and croon without the guitar in his hand.
“Holy shit you guys are lit tonight,” he told the crowd at one point, immersed in the excitement of the packed V Street space. “Let’s keep the litty train rolling.”
Neil, Christopher and company would intently shift back into the some of the songs that helped the band quickly carve out what has become a significant fan base not limited to Western Canada, eventually serving up enduring takes on tracks like “Shampoo Bottles” and “Hot Knifer”
Stream Peach Pit’s 2020 studio album, You and Your Friends, via Spotify:
A convincing performance from start to finish, it was capped with a terrific two-song encore, with the night’s final song delivering the much-requested “Tommy’s Party,” a low-fi jam on Being So Normal, but transforming into a swaying, intoxicating number at 9:30 Club.
Three different parental guardians — in the form of two couples, one mother flying solo — with whom Parklife DC spoke brought their kids to the show, one of them a youth who was attending his first concert. And the sentiment — a boon for a group already finding its stride as young, bold musicians — was that this group exceeded any preconceived notion of what it could offer in a live setting.
“We brought our son,” grinned one mom as she and her partner danced in the Hall of Records. “We didn’t’ think it was going to have this much energy. We thought it was more relaxed… We like it.”
Psychics in L.A.
Live at the Swamp
Camilla, I’m at Home
Drop the Guillotine
Being So Normal
Give Up Baby Go
Everything About You (encore)
Tommy’s Party (encore)
Here are images of Peach Pit as well as the night’s opener, Haley Blais, performing at 9:30 Club in Washington DC on April 2, 2022. All photos copyright and courtesy of Casey Vock.
love this review. i was there in the front row and can see myself in some of these pics. what a show!!