Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Live Review: Ponytail @ Subterranean

Download: Ponytail - "Celebrate The Body Electric (It Came From An Angel)"

If there ever were to be a remake of the classic 70s horror film The Exorcist, then those producers behind it better not make the mistake of casting Molly Siegel in the Linda Blair role. The reasoning behind this is simple: she would make demonic possession look fucking awesome. Indeed, as the seemingly diminutive singer rolls her eyes back in her, then juts up and down rhythmically to her band's brand of enthusiastically rambunctious, polyrhythmic spree of guitar squawk, the audience experiences a cognitive dissonance: how can this woman, who speaks like a kid sister in a Disney movie, make sounds and vocalizations that make Yoko Ono quiver?

A person watching Ponytail live with no sound (i.e. on YouTube) might think that Siegel is, based on her strained facial expressions, going through great anguish as she performs on stage. Nothing good be further from the truth. Beginning with the "Edge of Seventeen"-quoting "Sky Drool", and plowing through several other fantastic, spastic cuts from their new sophomore album Ice Cream Spiritual, Ponytail's level of joy and energy never let up, even when they decided to build up to a frantically focus crescendo of rock from a wave of calm soundscapes, as they did on new song "Music Tunes". Even though they have nothing in common musically (indeed, Ponytail's compositions are way too complex and dependent on guitar counterpoint lines), the most direct spiritual fore bearers have to be the Ramones (and not because their guitar player has a Johnny Ramone-esque mop top). Like the New York-based quartet, Ponytail's music and live show are of a very direct, but very contagious, sense of happiness and simple energy, channeled through songs that challenge the listener at every turn, and then reward them for doing so by having cathartic bursts of sound and sung. The only discernible words I could make out during the whole show were "Oh, no, I'm late for school" (work, these days) and "Away we go". But it wouldn't be much of a exaggeration to say that the audience identified with every bit of noise coming out of the voice and the amps. The show as a whole was like a session of hippy-bullshit-free session primal scream therapy for those of us just wanting to come out of the Bush years unscathed. "Your enthusiasm gives us positive energy" said guitarist Dustin Wong. After watching their set on Sub-T on Saturday, the only logical reply is "Vice Versa, Man". Vice Versa.

(Jonathan Graef)

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