For all intents and purposes, Pond frontman Nick Allbrook is not a rock god.
Not that you could have convinced the crowd at Great American Music Hall of that on the night of Tuesday, April 25. The crowd had no qualms whatsoever with treating him with the adulation typically reserved for the likes of Roger Daltrey, Robert Plant, or any of the other usual suspects CNN trots out when it needs to include a music-focused episode in its latest ultra-nostalgic 20th-century documentary series.
When Allbrook trotted onto the stage, he was greeted with thunderous applause. Clearly not in the mood to waste time, the blue-haired bandleader took immediately to pulling bizarre faces and slinging his guitar around with abandon. Less than four songs in, he tossed himself over the heads of the aforementioned adoring crowd and was subsequently carried throughout the venue by their loving hands. (Even the rowdy mosh pit paused to help him on his journey.) By the time he started promenading down the row of tables pushed against the stage like it was his own private rock ‘n’ roll runway, the crowd was done for. Nick Allbrook had Great American Music Hall wrapped around his little finger, and he sure as hell knew it.
But Pond is far more than just Allbrook, and to treat it as such does a grand disservice to the other four massively talented musicians responsible for Pond’s spectacularly entertaining psych-pop power. Guitarist Joe Ryan, multi-instrumentalist Jay Watson (who made a point of thanking the crowd as well as telling them that they were gorgeous and beautiful), drummer Ginolé, and keyboardist Jamie Terry were all in top form from the start. Speaking of which, set opener “30,000 Megatons,” the undisputed centerpiece from the band’s forthcoming album The Weather, sounded borderline miraculous echoing among those historic Tenderloin rafters.
But Pond knew better than to inundate an audience with unfamiliar material, however amazing said material may be. That’s not to imply The Weather didn’t get its due: “Paint Me Silver” provided a sweet-as-pie moment that kept the crowd swaying; “Sweep Me Off My Feet” was pleasant enough – albeit the less affecting of the two. The album’s title track provided a dreamy, sweeping finish to the two-song encore, preceded by the irresistible indie camp of “You Broke My Cool” from 2012’s Beard, Wives, Denim.
“You Broke My Cool” was far from the only selection from the band’s back catalog. You don’t make nearly 10 years as a band without knowing when and where and how often to play the hits, and Pond knew when and where and how often to play the hits. On Tuesday night, doing so meant hitting all the high notes of 2015’s Man It Feels Like Space Again: the frantic funk of “Elvis’ Flaming Star,” the kaleidoscopic disco of “Waiting Around For Grace,” and the title track whose steady crescendo plateaus only when it reaches peak psychedelic pyrotechnics. All three cuts garnered enthusiastic cheers.
But wait, there’s more – as there typically is when you’re talking about a bunch of psych-weirdos, like Pond, who are intent on having a bizarrely fun time. Powered by Watson’s locomotive bass, the mind-bending “Whatever Happened to the Million Head Collide” from 2013’s Hobo Rocket provided the set with its most all-consuming rock ‘n’ roll moment. Pond isn’t exactly the face-melting type, but there were a few moments during “Giant Tortoise” where the fivepiece (armed with almost as many synthesizers, mind you) came damn near close.
None of this came as a huge surprise. Pond’s live show is comprised of spectacular moments: Nick Allbrook wailing for his life during “30,000 Megatons” and reaching further into a crowd already clutching at his limbs; Ryan’s substantial head of hair flying in multiple directions during the breakdown of “Elvis’ Flaming Star;” Watson bouncing to his own bassline among the strobe lights while watching the crowd do the same (only more intensely and with far more moshing). Strung together in front of a packed house whose enthusiasm never once wavered, those moments added up to something supremely entertaining. Which is exactly how Pond likes it.