By Carter Shelter, Staff Writer
Tame Impala may have brought psychedelic music back into the mainstream, but Pond is the band that’s keeping psych rock defiantly on the wilder side. Case in point: their mind-bending rocket ship of a set at Music Hall of Williamsburg last Wednesday, Nov. 2.
Backdropped by a wash of swirling colors and surreal animations that wouldn’t have been out of place in Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” the band worked their way through trance-like dance, hard rock riffs and catchy melodies with seemingly effortless abandon. The
looseness and energy they brought to the stage, imbuing even the most complex songs with an unhinged recklessness, felt primal in a way that called back to what initially made rock and roll thrilling.
From the get go, each song felt like a race car on an exponentially accelerating trajectory, with the masterful hands on the wheel avoiding every obstacle in the road at the last second; never letting the whole thing go up in flames, but letting the crowd fear that it might.
Opening the show with “Elvis’ Flaming Star,” a manic blast of psychedelic pop off of last year’s album “Man It Feels Like Space Again,” Pond immediately burst to life. The propulsive drumbeat quickly sent the crowd into a frenzy of dancing and excited screams as singer/guitarist Nick Allbrook sang about bringing back Elvis and color-coding your LPs.
The other members of the band seemed to act as a foil for Allbrook on stage, keeping things grounded while he established himself as one of the more curious frontmen of modern music. He combined a sort of puckish, mischievous playfulness with a dash of glam-rock androgyny reminiscent of David Bowie circa-“Ziggy Stardust” in what felt like a genuinely no-fucks-given performance. Whether he was prowling and strutting around the front of the stage, flailing his guitar around amid a psychedelic sound-storm or bending his leg up like an alien trying to figure out yoga, he was an immensely captivating performer.
The audience that packed the venue, maybe due to the band’s lack of regular touring, especially to the U.S., was particularly enthusiastic. Each twist and turn in the music, from the spaced-out sway into head banging assault of “Giant Tortoise” to the demented delirium of the Beatles-esque “You Broke My Cool,” was greeted with giddy cheers from the longtime fans and newcomers alike.
The unrelenting pulse of “Don’t Look At the Sun or You’ll Go Blind” got the crowd moving while Pond alternated seamlessly between noisy rock and roll freak-out and underground dance party, and the reverb-soaked “Sitting Up On Our Crane,” featuring keyboardist/bassist Jay Watson (who also plays in Tame Impala) on vocals, gave the crowd a moment of triumphant euphoria before sending them back onto Allbrook’s psychedelic “Island of Misfit Toys.”
Pond closed out the set with an exuberant performance of “Man It Feels Like Space Again,” the eight-minute closing track to their album of the same title, before returning to the stage for what Allbrook referred to as “our idiosyncratic attempt at an encore” which began with a reprise of “Don’t Look At the Sun…” and moved into an unbridled “Midnight Mass,” complete with a stage dive from a member of the audience, spine-tingling shrieks from Allbrook and a drawn-out trip of an ending all coming to a close in spectacular, feedback-laden chaos.
Pond pulled off the ultimate trick; reminding people that just because music is weird — even bordering on avant-garde — doesn’t mean it can’t be fun! The world needs more bands like Pond. Or maybe we just need more Pond.