For a band that seems to pride itself on weirdness, the Pink Snowflakes kept it true to form at SXSW - where guitarist Tom McGregor admits the band had "no idea what we were getting ourselves into" - playing a show at a venue that professed a "clothing-optional" policy.
"We figured it out a week or two before we left and thought it would be perfect because we're all about the slightly weird and thought it would be great to be listening to this loud, crazy psychedelic rock and freaking out to it," says McGregor over the phone from his Portland home, "But there only ended up being one guy naked and it was the guy in charge."
"It was madness. I've never seen that many people crammed into a street when there's not a riot," he says.
While some people have instantly likened the Pink Snowflakes to the psychedelic bands of the late 1960s, those comparisons overlook the modern edge the Snowflakes incorporate on their albums and in their off-the-wall live show. It's more apt to compare the band to 1990s feedback rockers like Dinosaur Jr. or the early days of the Flaming Lips, both bands that - like the Pink Snowflakes - need to be seen live to fully grasp their intentional weirdness.
"With the visuals and the horribly loud music we want everyone to feel and see and be a part of the experience. We don't want people to just be in the back, ya know, drinking a beer and watching the show," McGregor says.
The Pink Snowflakes are indeed horribly, incredibly, pants-shittingly loud with a sound drenched in so much feedback that the melodies (which are downright catchy on songs such as "Like Ice Cream") are often pushed to the back wall, but not far enough to dull their poppy edge. The Snowflakes can be messy as all hell, but they're deliberately and almost sarcastically so, patching together a sonic quilt that lends itself nicely to the bubble machines, bright colors and all-around psychedelic vibe the band has embraced since it was formed in 2001 by singer/vocalist Andrew Rossi.
The band's intense visual emphasis might owe to the fact that all the members are visual artists, led by front man Rossi who is an accomplished muralist. So it seems natural that the Snowflakes would be so bent on melding their visual and auditory creations. In Portland, a town becoming increasingly soaked in musical talent, the Pink Snowflakes manage to stick out - for obvious reasons. This isn't to say they're huge over there, because they're not. Rather, the band is pushing onward with a summer tour in the works, not worrying much about the fact that they don't belong to any certain clique of Portland bands.
"We haven't found anyone in town who we think we're on the same wavelength with musically. We definitely stick out. I would much rather be the black sheep as it were than blend in with everything else," says McGregor, the band's lone native Oregonian, who says that as one of five siblings growing up, he's used to his black sheep status.
Whether they're outsiders or insiders, the Pink Snowflakes will continue to be loud, or "horribly loud" as McGregor says.
The Pink Snowflakes
8:30pm Saturday, April 25. Players Bar and Grill, 25 SW Century Dr. Free.