LIVE REVIEW: Ego-free and energetic POND, live @ the Rosemount
I always find myself looking for patterns in things. Common themes that unify otherwise disparate events into a cohesive whole. POND’s only hometown show before launching into an extensive American touring odyssey was filled with many such idiosyncratic moments and a whole lot of roiling psychedelic fun. In no particular order, here are the unifying themes to each performance of the evening:
1. The whole show was a celebration of ‘alternative’ Perth music culture. Of not only embracing the weird, but manufacturing it to such epic proportions that the line between genuine and ironic becomes blurred.
It is mischievously fun to witness and only pulled off by people who either don’t have a social barometer for the norm, or they disregard it entirely because they just don’t give a flying proverbial. These kinds of people tend to be:
2. Exuberantly extroverted front people.
3. Finally, the unmistakable aquatic theme to band names.
These bands might be watery and washed out by name but they are certainly not by nature. Kicking off the night was Reef Prince, the tongue-in-cheek side project of lead man Stephen Bellair from grungy surfer-bro rock band Doctopus. Sampling anything from Backstreet Boys to Kendrick Lamar, the Prince sits somewhere between ironic showman and genuine hype-man. Hearing a white boy singing over trap music about the sleepy nature of Perth living and spending time on boats certainly makes you feel like you could drown under the layers of irony. To assist Reef Prince in rapping about “wiping [his] ass with polymer” was singing accompanist and POND front-man, Nick Albrook. Although it is never quite clear if we’re celebrating the esoteric, niche-like Perth culture or reveling in ironic bad taste, it’s a fun ride nonetheless.
Female-led bands are becoming the driving force of powerful and snappy music in Perth (don’t believe me? Look up Cunt Snot). Boat Show are no exception. Unapologetically yelly songs like “Cis White Boy” are underplayed by fuzzy-happy hooks. Live they exude a potent punk energy that can’t be impeded by silly little things like the patriarchy. During a quick break for tuning, frontwoman Ali Flintoff led the crowd in a mini-singalong of the 4 Non Blondes classic “What’s Up” only to call us ‘pussywhipped’ for wholeheartedly committing. Boat Show don’t give a fuck if you like them, and for that, I love them.
The crowd welcomed the delay and reverb-soaked vocals of Nick Allbrook with sweaty enthusiasm. POND used the full extent of their broad catalogue, cheerily bouncing between old songs and new (The track Giant Tortoise from 2013 release Hobo Rocket garnered the most audience excitement).
A malfunctioning projector and some extremely buzzy line-array stood as the only blights on the evening. A few times members of POND seemed disgruntled at the sound mixing, although it sounded fine from where I stood, if anything just a bit loud (thank goodness for attenuating ear plugs). But these few technical difficulties were forgotten entirely in the blazing heat of guitar solos.
In many respects, POND are a band with two front men, Jay Watson (of Tame Impala fame) and Allbrook sporadically swap lead singing responsibilities. For many other acts this might cause clashes of egos and an unhealthy hypercompetitive dynamic. But for POND it works because the project isn’t about ego, POND is “an all inclusive, ego-free collaborative” much more about an exploration of self, guided by an unwavering confidence and well-forged partnership. This only adds to the endlessly ebbing and flowing nature of each epically segmented track. There is a variety and freshness to each song, subverting the listeners’ expectations as one groovy rhythm section bleeds into the next and then suddenly breaks into solo. It all leaves you breathlessly reeling as you desperately hold on for every twist and turn of the ride.