Audience: 18 and over
47 south Terrace, Fremantle
WA, 6160, Australia.
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If your band contains three-quarters of Australia’s psych act du jour, you’re bound to attract some attention. So it is with Pond, who are made up of three members of Tame Impala, one member of The Silents and someone called Joseph Orion (which may or may not be a nom de plume). Tonight, the Norfolk Basement is packed. And by packed, I mean I can’t turn sideways without knocking someone’s pint out of their hands. The interest surrounding the gig has also been heightened by the fact that Pond are launching their third record Frond, although disappointingly the album’s not available because of reproduction issues.
The band are spreading the launch over two dates (tomorrow they’ll play at the equally-small The Bird in Northbridge), but that hasn’t diminished the size of the crowd: the show has sold out less than an hour after doors opened, and people have been surreptitiously ferried through the back door. By the time the quintet take to the stage I’m trapped up against the stone back wall of the Norfolk, a sea of people obfuscating my view. I can see the bobbing head of frontman Nick Albrook, but that’s about it. But from the start it’s noticeable that something’s awry. All these reports I’d heard about Pond live shows, of Albrook launching himself into crowd and the crowd reciprocating with unbridled dancing, they’re just not materialising. Instead, the audience are standing stoically, arms folded. In return, Pond are awkward on stage, even a little frustrated. Albrook bristles when someone from the crowd stands on the side of the stage, and it’s all a little bit stilted.
What it really boils down to is that expectations haven’t been met. It’s evident that a large percentage of the crowd have turned up just because there are three guys from Tame Impala in the band. There’s this big group of macho, leviathan guys who whoop loudly whenever a part of a Pond song sounds like Tame Impala or even Wolfmother. But that’s not who Pond are at all. The band cherry pick from ’70s psych and rock, sounding simultaneously like Jethro Tull, David Bowie and The Who, bathing their sound in kaleidoscopic guitar effects and rolling rhythmic grooves. They are, at their core, five stoners who all live in a house together in Perth and play loose music to wig out to. Honestly, how can you take a band seriously when they sing songs about cloud cities and play a flute? Nobody plays a flute seriously (unless you’re Ian Anderson.)
Over the course of the band’s hour set, the crowd starts to dissipate and I edge closer and closer to the stage. As a correlate, Pond themselves start to loosen up, playing with more abandon and far more joie de vivre. They mightn’t be leaping off speaker stacks, but they’re becoming more engaging. Albrook’s not the strongest singer, but the arrangements and structures of Pond’s songs are impressively complex. The remainder of the audience – which fills about three-quarters of the place now – seem to be actual Pond fans, and there’s a great vibe in the room.
Fortunately for Pond, the gig ends on a high. I don’t think they’ll ever make the leap to the mainstream like Tame Impala have, but there is a new song they play towards the end of the set that is as close to a crossover tune as anything they’ve got.
by Dom Alessio