Nearly two and a half years ago, Pinegrove frontman Evan Stephens Hall addressed allegations of sexual coercion in a winding Facebook post.
It wasn't exactly clear whether Hall was refuting the allegation or apologizing, but it marked a turning point that led him to step back from music and into therapy, just as his band Pinegrove was about to release their anticipated follow-up to 2016's Cardinal.
Though Hall has been transparent about his attempts to make amends, there's not exactly a marked road to redemption for bands after an allegation of sexual misconduct. Two years and an absorbing new album later, I still walked into the Wonder Ballroom on Feb. 13 expecting to see a tentative crowd, eyeing each other as if to ask, "Is this OK?"
Even if that question was on peoples' minds, as soon as Hall sang the first lines of opener "Old Friends" in his twangy, nasal voice, the crowd screamed along. Hall never acknowledged what happened in 2017, he simply belted. Even lyrics that could pack heaps of contextual weight like "This is the new way I behave now" from "Rings" came off as sincere.
The band cycled mostly through the more popular tunes of their last three albums. "Aphasia," "Neighbor," "Spiral" and "No Drugs" received the biggest response—cries of "I love you, Evan!" were regularly hurled at the stage. It's a testament to the band that they can set seemingly any stage ablaze with an acoustic guitar and a steel pedal.
Most of Pinegrove's music is based on the belief that emotions should be expressed, and personal demons should be confronted. Perhaps at this point, that's all we can ask of them as people, too.