LIVE: Kindness, Doug Fir Lounge, Portland, OR

By Hollister Dixon

In a lot of ways, for a lot of people, pop music is something frivolous, airy, and pedestrian. In the world of indie rock, there exists a weird riff between people who embrace it, and those who view it as “not real music”. This is an absolute shame, because those are the kinds of people who will sleep on people like Adam Bainbridge, otherwise known as Kindness. He’s still a relatively young artist, with two records under his belt (2012’s World, You Need a Change of Heart and 2014’s Otherness) but he’s also worked with a lot of undeniable stars (Robyn performs on Otherness, as does Dev Hynes, aka Blood Orange, aka Lightspeed Champion), and although your roster of guests doesn’t make your records good, it definitely means that you’ve got something good going on.

And make no mistake: judging by the fantastic (albeit short) set Kindness performed at the Doug Fir Lounge, he’s definitely got something special to offer. This becomes apparent almost immediately, as his backing band lauched into World closer “Doigsong”. Onstage, Bainbridge proves to be the full package: he can sing, and he can most definitely dance – something you just don’t see enough anymore. It feels over-the-top to compare him to the likes of Prince or Michael Jackson, but given five years, I can’t doubt that the comparison will be thrown around a lot more.

Bainbridge isn’t alone in the stage presence department, though: every other person onstage, from the drummer (and his fantastically simple Robert De Niro impression) to his backup singers, feel absolutely vital to the experience. This was never more clear than the point where, very early in their set, he decided to take a four-minute break to give his singers the spotlight, and left the stage entirely. Though his manic, all-over-the-place energy was missing, the potency of the song was still there, which made Kindness feel less like a single guy with a backing band, and more like an actual collective. That collective elevates the project to an entirely new level.

At the end of the day, though, my biggest complaint is that the set was just too short. There was a decent amount of very funny, very rewarding crowd work and banter, but if you stopped to think about it, it was just to kill a little time. The set was 10 songs long and just over an hour, and though I enjoyed myself, I can’t help but wonder whether or not the rest of the crowd walked away satisfied. With two albums of material to work with, was it impossible to include an extra song or two to sweeten the experience? Bainbridge did an impression onstage of a concertgoer calling TicketMaster in a huff over the set-length, so why not just play a tiny bit more?

This complaint is relatively minor, though, as I was thoroughly impressed by the quality of the performance I got, no matter how long it was. Kindness is clearly still in its infancy in a lot of ways, and in a year or two, I can see it being the kind of act that you pound on your neighbor’s doors to talk about. I was satisfied by the passion they put into the performance, even if I wish they’d done it just a little longer. Keep an eye out for Adam Bainbridge, though, he’ll be blowing socks off in way bigger rooms if he keeps working like he has been.

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