By Gilchrist Green, Contributing Writer
When I first saw Daniel Pujol, he was standing on an amp strumming his guitar in the middle of an indoor skateboarding park playing to a group of wannabe-punk kids. Now, almost four years later, he stood on the stage at Shea Stadium backed by a full band and five albums under his belt, releasing an evolved sound that is refined and thoughtful but that hasn’t lost any of its raw energy.
As a celebrated figure in the Nashville garage rock/punk scene, Pujol was greeted with silence, crossed arms, and a few head bobs from the New York crowd on Thursday night. The show was small, its vibe dark, but the music was never lacking; maybe the drowsy crowd just couldn’t keep up.
Pujol began the set with two throwbacks from circa 2009, “Endless Mike” and “Deathmask.” Both songs ended with ripping solos by guitarist Brett Rosenberg, also of Nashville’s lo-fi beach rock band Quichenight. The rest of the set showcased songs from Pujol’s newest LP “Kisses,” a blend of poetry and rock and roll. The album’s songs range from poppy, head-banging garage rock directly into a lyrical speech about the “dystopian nightmare” of the world today, with the music never flinching.
All of Pujol’s songs have always seemed to have powerful, deeper meanings about society and its hypocrisy, and meta thoughts about the self, but “Kisses” takes these ideas to a higher, more passionate level. With lyrics like “a culturally pasteurized feeling / a corporate rock history feeling,” and “give me some reel-to-reel feelings / I’m living for you,” the track “Designer Feelings” is a perfect example. The most exciting song of the night was “Fist Fight,” a song about the old version and the new version of yourself being in a fistfight. The crowd eventually let the energy of the music reach them and began screaming the lyrics, moshing, and throwing their fists up in the air valiantly with the word “fistfight.”
After the song’s end, Pujol stopped the set to tune up and tell a story with his southern slang about how his van had broken down earlier that day in a stretch of Connecticut. The story itself was like a performance, as under Pujol’s words detailing the all-American mechanic in a denim jumpsuit with the sun shining off his body, Rosenberg softly played the spooky, smoky guitar riff of Bruce Springsteen’s classic “I’m On Fire.”
The set concluded the same way it began, with beloved hits from Pujol’s past, officially ending with “Youniverse,” a catchy tune about planets, love, living life before the ultimate finale of death. The song’s outro bridge included a twinkling, spacy guitar riff over the words “I came to FREAK!” (Yes, freak is a verb.)