Review by guest author Patrick Daul.
With nine records in the bank and almost 15 years of touring under their belts, Pond is a veteran outfit with a firm identity and established fanbase. Their output has been consistently satisfying for fans of their genre, which justifies the band’s underrated popularity, prominent festival bookings, and well-attended club shows.
It’s inevitable that Tame Impala comes to mind when thinking about the Australian psychedelic rock band Pond. Both projects hail from the same rock scene in Perth, Australia. Frontman Nick Allbrook and multi-instrumentalist Jay Watson are the most prominent songwriters of the group. Both have either spent time in or currently tour with Tame Impala. It’s been a two-way street as well, with Tame’s Kevin Parker contributing drums and production on a number of their releases. But let’s be clear on one thing, this band is neither a side project nor an afterthought.
Sonically, Pond blends elements of pop, rock, and folk into a melange of peppy psychedelia, although their arrangements aren’t as kaleidoscopic or vibe-soaked as some of the band’s contemporaries. Pond’s vivid soundscapes have just the right amount of pop sensibility and spirited, left-of-center hooks that appeal to both altered-state listening, and road trip singalongs. They’ve never taken any dramatic, genre-bending left turns or enormous stylistic leaps. By the same token, they’ve also never face-planted or even put out a remotely disappointing record.
The Metro on a wintry Tuesday evening in December isn’t exactly the setting you’d associate with the sunny and kinetic sound of the Australian band, but the crowd was as lively as you can expect this time of year. Perhaps the 20- and 30-somethings packing the venue pined for a bit of youthful nightlife to break up the holiday monotony, but the kids turned up.
First up was Los Angeles indie-rock outfit Cryogeyser. They play a brand of ’90s-indebted guitar rock that incorporates elements of shoegaze and throwback alternative. Vocal deliveries reminiscent of Snail Mail contrasted well with some of the heavier and more distorted sounds that are en vogue with so many young rock groups. Cryogeyser’s short set was well received, although the crowd’s energy leaned social. With the casual atmosphere between sets, the headliner’s entry seemed to have come from out of nowhere.
The five Aussies took the stage with likable professionalism and started the show with a trio of songs off the band’s most recent and ninth LP, aptly titled 9. These were some of the most beat-forward tracks of the night, with the band’s pop influences coming to the forefront. There’s little, if any, irony to Pond ’s music. With hyper-sincere vocal delivery, Allbrook really goes for it, especially on the band’s dancier tracks like “America’s Cup” and “Rambo.”
There’s an unending youthfulness that’s uniquely Australian, and Pond ’s frontman exhibits this quality almost to the point of self-parody. As far as stage presence goes, Nick Allbrook gives the crowd everything. Within half a song, he was in the crowd. Relieved of instrumental responsibilities for the songs off the new album, his primary focus was strutting and prancing all over the stage like the rock stars of old. Fortunately, his antics were never too over the top and helped keep the crowd’s energy high throughout the set.
Pond kept things interesting throughout the set, wisely allowing for fluctuation between peaks and valleys. The midpoint of the show featured some of their most popular songs like “The Weather” and “Paint Me Silver,” which drew a notable crowd response. And by that I mean the crowd went bananas when the intros to these Spotify staples started.
Pond followed up the set’s bangers with the sprawling epic “Take Me, Avalon, I’m Young.” This track showcased the band’s ambitious side. Even for a sub-6-minute song, the band took a simple groove and let it evolve into a medley of whirling guitar solos, funky bass lines from Watson, and shimmery synths that completed the outstanding performance.
One of the harder rocking songs of the set was “Giant Tortoise,” which featured some of the most dynamic guitar riffage of the night. More subdued numbers followed, including “Daisy” and the bittersweet “Toast” closing out the set, and the band quickly headed backstage. Their brief break felt obligatory, as waiting for an encore you know is going to happen often does.
The five-piece retook the stage to perform the folky throwback singalong “Medicine Hat,” which is a nice track but felt a little too similar to the songs they closed the previous set with. What came next was something different. Show closer “Don’t Look at the Sun (Or You’ll Go Blind)” distills a lot of Pond’s best qualities into one track. There’s a danceability to it, but also soaring guitar, and a slow but triumphant build to make it one of the band’s best songs.
Appropriately, this was their loosest performance of the show. Allbrook’s animated energy added tension as the band steadily added layers before the song’s roaring, synth-washed climax. Pond is exceptional at creating euphoric moments during their live shows, which they had done on a number of songs already. Even so, the final notes of the show proved to be the apex the band had been climbing toward all night.
Between the dynamism of their frontman, legitimately great pop hooks, effortless musicality, and knack for enrapturing audiences, Pond puts on quite a show. Something magical happens when they fill up a sweaty rock club with fans as ecstatic to see them as the band is to be on stage. Regardless of the narrative, Pond is a side project to no one.
This review of Pond‘s show at the Metro was written by guest author Patrick Daul. Patrick Daul is an avid music fan and concertgoer living with his wife in Logan Square. When he’s not standing towards the back of the crowd at his favorite vanues Empty Bottle or Thalia Hall, he’s either cycling along the 606, hanging with his nieces and nephew, or enjoying a beer at one of Chicago’s breweries.