Fact: PK’s grasp needs to catch up with their reach. They’re grasping audiences in cozy venue spaces, yet their abilities reach for so much more.
The first time that a band plays a venue of particular musical significance (Bowery Ballroom, the Fillmore, 40 Watt Club, etc.) hopefully they mentally walk on the cloud of that accomplishment, file the moment away in a special secret cubby of the mind, pull it out on a rainy day when they doubt the wisdom of their course. When San Luis Obispo’s PK looks back on the first time that they plugged in and rocked out on the historic Roxy Theater stage in West Hollywood, they’ll always be able to say- without doubt- that said stage and the audience belonged to them.
PK isn’t necessarily an easy band to specifically pin down, but you know that you’ve heard it or something like it before. For that reason, alone, ears may find themselves easily attracted to the punch that they pack. PK possess a punkish spark, but there’s nothing abrasive or menacing about them. You’d have to be deaf and musically dumb to overlook the Robert Smith-iness or Brandon Flower-ishness of Travis Hawley’s vocals, so there’s that. The music is high amped and hooky popish rock- with shades of Brit rock for good measure- and is appealing to pretty girls and the boys on their arm. And every single player in this five-man outfit is unusually easy on the eyes (seriously, this is one freakishly good looking band). So all went according to any preconceived plan when the curtain went up on Hawley and his crew Matt Depauw (guitar), Nick Fotinakes (guitar), Mikel Van Kranenburg (bass) and Rico Rodriguez (drums): girls to my right cheered and guys to my left vocalized with synchronized fist pumps, more than ready for the music party.
Kicking off with “The Catch” from their 2010 full length, Into the Roaring, PK pushed through their 8-song set with- aside from Hawley’s occasional mic and mic stand issues- almost too much ease. I say “too much” because you got the feeling that there was no place else that they’d rather be than on that stage in that moment. If you took the Gaslight Anthem, dosed them with California sun (sunscreen, optional), and gave them a male singer with the prettiest smile (something he does a lot of on stage) next to Justin Tranter of Semi Precious Weapons, there would be PK in a nutshell. All of their pieces fit seamlessly like the skillful guitar duties pulled by Fotinakes and Depauw who played to the crowd and one another with so much affable swagger, you hope that they mean it. Songs like “Innocence” showed that, no matter how buoyant the song, Van Kranenburg and Rodriguez solidly ride the punkier edge of a rhythm section, while Hawley took to having a joyful, jungle gym moment by swinging from the lights above stage without missing a line. No idea how Dann (the Roxy’s production manager) felt about that, but hopefully beverage sales made up for it. How Hawley particularly enunciates the lyrics…let’s just call it lovely. His tone and his phrasing pop, and he truly flexed the fluidity of his higher vocal range on “Some Nights”…again, seemingly with too damned much ease.
You have to hand it to PK: even though they sound just as great recorded as they do live, they’re a hell of a lot more fun on stage. They exude so much talent, potential, and honest joy in their performance that it’s hard to believe that, as a band, they’re only two years old. Fans at the Roxy who knew the songs word for word bouncingly sang along, and those who didn’t- well, you could tell that they really wanted to. I’m pretty sure that the next time they see PK, they will.
Setlist: The Catch, Seawolves, Innocence, Some Nights, Not in Love, 1920, London, Berelain