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Ponytail at Sala Rosa, Apr. 28

Posted by Greg / April 29, 2009

20090428-ponytail.jpgLast night's Ponytail show was a great and even reassuring experience, considering I really wasn't sure what to expect from them going in. The first song of theirs I heard, "Celebrate the Body Electric (it Came From an Angel)," attracted me with its stellar prog-rock guitar work and frantic rhythms. Then I checked out their recent album, Ice Cream Spiritual, and wasn't so impressed. Molly Siegel's vocal style seemed like an inside joke that I didn't get. She doesn't sing, doesn't use words, just yells and makes noises. Yelling is fine - it works well in metal, and plenty of other musical genres - but there was too little variation in what she did, too much randomness, and her sounds just weren't aesthetically pleasing. This caused me some turmoil. I don't like bashing bands unless I have a really, really good reason for it, since there are so many scenes and micro-scenes where just about any style has an audience that can appreciate it.

I started off the evening thinking maybe I could enjoy myself if I just let go and embraced the scene. By then I had pegged Ponytail as a hipster party band - the kind where you get drunk and stupid and just have fun - so my friend and I prepared by "pounding" a six pack of PBR in the park. Sufficiently buzzed and irony-filled, we rolled into Sala ready for anything. Luckily, we got so much more than we expected.

All my qualms about Ponytail disappeared within a minute of their opening song. The vocal style I feared so much worked far better live than on album, mixed evenly with the guitars and drums in a way that supplemented the band's sonic assault rather than taking over. There were no discernible lyrics, but really, why does that matter? Most of the time it's impossible making out specific lyrics in the concert setting anyway. Molly Siegel's sound worked perfectly live. With the guitars and drums as busy and melodic as they were, I'm not sure what singing would have added.

And speaking of the guitars and drums - holy shit, these guys were talented. Ponytail have garnered comparisons with prog-indie-rock bands like Deerhoof and Holy Fuck, and Japanese noise-rock acts like Afrirampo and OOIOO. These all make plenty of sense, but my friend pointed out another comparison that should go on record: the metal gods of Dragonforce. Both bands feature a guitar style that sounds like retro video game music on crack - that is, Zelda sped up over manic drumming. This is also to say, for guitar heads who typically find indie-rock too restrained on the shredding front, Ponytail has something serious to offer. Ken Seeno and Dustin Wong kept their fingers moving at a blurry pace, blasting through one complex phrase after another, without ever compromising their songs' larger musicality. Jeremy Hyman took everything to a higher rhythmic level, propelling them through the set with unceasing energy. In the hands of a lesser drummer, this band may have sounded chaotic, but Hyman brought everything together perfectly.

The only downside was that the band played a short set with no encore. This was excusable - Molly Siegel had a bad cold and was taking spoonfuls of cough syrup between songs. No matter; the show still blew me away. I hope she gets better soon, and I hope they keep on making such spectacularly original music for a long time.

Photo via Namestage's flickr page

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