One of the best things my Dad ever taught me was to learn the rules laid down by any system before deciding which ones deserve to be broken. After all, any rebellion set off without having done the necessary research can be painted at best as laziness and at worst as unbridled ignorance (i.e. the Occupy movement and/or the Tea Party). And Tuesday night at Zebulon, nothing was more evident than the fact that while Pond and their protégé Lord Fascinator have learned what it takes to make “successful” music, they’ve discarded any rules which have gotten in the way of their respective visions, much to the benefit of all who are willing to give them a chance.
Arriving at the beginning of the night was New York based DJ/performer Lord Fascinator. While I had never heard his music before, he managed to make an impression from the moment he and his band walked on stage; however, anyone who looks like dealer to a Heaven’s Gate offshoot out of the East Village likely would. Once the initial novelty of his appearance wore off though, he kicked off a set which I assuredly couldn’t have predicted before walking in that night.
While I admit that I’m guilty of beginning to write reviews and form opinions on shows in my head from the earliest moments of an act’s set, every time my mind attempted to put Lord Fascinator into a box, he managed to punch his way out of it, piss on it, and promptly set it on fire before moving onto the next song. Running the gamut from Explosions in the Sky-like soundscapes, to extended Neu/Popul Vuh tributes, to beats that made you question if we’d all been somehow transported to The Haçienda circa 1992, Lord Fascinator proved difficult to nail down. However, both despite and because of this, he managed to put on a great show (complete with saxophone interludes and a laouto solo that would make Eddie Van Halen cry) and would be the ideal candidate to score the inevitable reboots of Trainspotting and/or Run Lola Run (both starring Dwayne Johnson, of course).
With the conclusion of Lord Fascinator’s set and a quick changeover underway, the demographics of the crowd began to exhibit an even split between those who fell in love with Pond at a festival and those who showed up because they thought it would be a Tame Impala secret show. And while the former was adequately primed for the night that laid ahead, the latter could be considered luckier for having their expectations blown to pieces and reconstructed into something with shades of the familiar, but altogether different in form, layout, and execution.
Diving right into a stirring rendition of their song “30000 Megatons,” Pond made it clear from the beginning of their set that while having fun was the objective, they weren’t fucking around, one of their chief strengths as a band being their ability to strike the perfect balance between precision and chaos. And despite the heavy outward appearance of being a psych band, they weren’t afraid to break out material which defied the mold into which they’ve been cast, even venturing into some surprisingly danceable new wave-esque territory and, for sharp-eared listeners, a brief dip into a cover of Kanye West’s “Fade.”
Although the above only constitutes the tip of the iceberg in a night full of surprises, with my most interesting finding of the night being that the true power and joy in their performance derives primarily from their willingness to go full speed ahead with any idea that fits into their idea of a good time, which in turn leads to an infectiously fun atmosphere that you couldn’t help but get caught up in. While it’s hard to choose to best example of this to communicate the feeling effectively, one of the best moments of the show was without a doubt when they brought out special guest Kirin J. Callinan (formerly of Mercy Arms, currently of viral fame) for a high energy performance of “Paint Me Silver.” During and in the immediate aftermath of this song, you could tell that anyone who had come for a secret Tame Impala show had left any disappointment behind and was now fully invested in these lovable freaks from halfway around the world.
As the night drew on and I got to thinking that they couldn’t possibly keep up this momentum, they continually defied me with ever more complex and bombastic songs; so much so, that I can say with high confidence that the girl who stood next to me for the better part of the show was having a religious experience by the end of it. While most bands hope for a good run, strong merch sales, and a steady stream of royalty payments, Pond’s focus by the end of the night was evident: to make this night the best damn show they could and hope that people come out it stoked for what lies ahead. And as far as I’m concerned, they succeeded and I can’t wait to see them again.
Words by: Robert Cohen
Photos by: Grace Dunn