Great rock band names...Black Sabbath! Iron Maiden! Hawkwind! Def Leopard! Metallica! Motorhead! You know what you’re in for just by the name eh? ROCCCCKKKKK! Call yourself Pond though and you could be a fey folk band with a penchant for songs about Maypoles and a hey nonny no. Any ill informed folk fans who may have stumbled in to this gig expecting a gentle rendition of All Around My Hat though may well now be undergoing counselling...
Before all that, a question - is it too soon for a 90’s revival? Seemingly not given Swim Deep’s edgy rebooting of the late 80’s early 90’s scene that spawned the likes of Ride, The Mock Turtles and The Soup Dragons. Ahhhhh, happy days. Yeah, I’m old, get over it. The clothing offers further clues, a Nirvana t-shirt, a Wayne’s World baseball cap and, beneath it, the kind of floppy haircut seldom seen since the days of Melody Maker. In the intervening months between the last time I caught them live they seemed to have beefed up the sound a little more, adding a slightly grungier to some distinctly Joy Division-ish drumming and bass guitar. They’re more than just the sum of their parts though and the fact that recent single King City already feels like one of this year’s key indie tracks is a promising sign. Ones to watch.
Like a slightly spaced out pied piper Nick Allbrook, Pond’s youthful (the dude looks about 13) singer, guitarist, keyboard player and...suitably enough given the pied piper reference – flautist, climbs down from the stage and gently draws the crowd forward closer to the stage and then...BAM! Where the hell did that come from? It’s like the gods of rock descending down from above as the band explodes into one heavy psych mind fuck after another. Bowel rupturing bass lines, trippy moog keyboards and motorik drumming come together in perfect harmony, all that’s missing is the psychedelic light show and generously proportioned bare breasted lady.
Featuring three members of Aussie psych rock legends Tame Impala Pond were one of the big hits at this year’s SXSW festival and it’s not hard to see why. Twisting and twitching, speaking in tongues, eyes rolling to the back of his head, lying prone on the stage, back arching to the heavens like he’s trying to roger the ceiling, lead singer Nick literally seems possessed by some kind of unholy spirit,...hell, if you’re gonna rock out, go for it eh? All around him the rest of the band lays down some of the heaviest shit this side of Hawkwind’s spaceship. From opening number, the broodingly dirgetastic Zanman through to the encore, a sweat drenched sprint through the MC5’s Kick Out The Jams, Pond literally rocked the place to its foundations, ripping tracks from their critically acclaimed current album Beard, Wives, Denim, including an incendiary Fantastic Explosions Of Time. KABOOOM!!!!
As is traditional for any rock band visiting Birmingham (I think it might even be in their contracts) it wasn’t long before they were asking if Black Sabbath came from here? Met with a resounding “YESSSSSSS!” from the crowd they launched into a brief snatch of War Pigs. Incredibly it’s not part of their set yet (although they revisited it again later on whilst a guitar string...quite possibly melted by the sheer power of the ROCK...was being replaced). Trust me they’d be all over this track like a motherhumper. Nick was keen to pay his own unique tribute to Brum’s finest though, “Ozzy Osbourne ate crack for breakfast for 50 year and he still sings better than all of us...now that’s talent!”. Okay, so Pond might not sprinkle narcotics on their bran flakes but on the strength of this frankly mind blowing performance they’re clearly on a different planet to the rest of us. Wherever the hell that is, it’s well worth a visit.