19 July 2009

Yeasayer, Ponytail @ Bug Jar

The Bug Jar couldn't contain all the music that took place there last Wednesday night. Literally. The two opening bands played from front of stage, Yeasayer's equipment left only room for Ponytail's monitors and drumkit, and the opening act Phantogram were left completely off the stage. Fortunately for boy girl duo Phantogram, they traveled pretty lightly, a few smallish keyboards, guitars, mics, pedals and electronics, and their own small light show. I caught their last two or three tunes, a quick snippet, but enough to be drawn to their very danceable brand of electronic pop. VERY danceable.

Then Ponytail took the stage, I mean, floor. My expectations weren't very high. But my expectations were blown out of the water not more than 2 minutes into the set. If you talk about Ponytail chances are you're talking about lead singer Molly Siegel. Chances are you'd be missing the best 3/4 of the group. Her backing band is insanely good. Chops-wise, musically-wise, tightness-wise. Aggressive, hard-hitting, glorious, avant-garde, dizzying... They were amazing. Then toss on top of that some of the more bizarre "singing" you'll ever see. More like chanting, all (well most) in some non-existent language with an alphabet limited to the letters a,e,i,o,u,g,h,r,w, and y. Basically a lot of whoops, wails, hollers, and primal screams. Not for everyone, I would have thought not even for me, but somehow it works, and somehow it works to be some of the most amazing music I have heard all year. Very energetic, frenetic, funky and tribal, in the realm of Akron/Family. Deeply satisfying.

Yeasayer's set, on the contrary, was fairly disappointing. I was really looking forward to seeing them and they did nothing to remove the recent memories of seeing Ponytail from my mind. Now don't get me wrong, they were good in a totally different way. Good songs, great vocals, nice rhythmically. Even if their music didn't call for the type of off-the-wall energy that Ponytail brought, they still seemed to lack that onstage energy that is needed to draw in an audience and make a good live show. The live part of the show just seemed to be missing, mostly it was just rehashing exactly what was on the album. When they finished in under an hour and quickly announced that they absolutely had no more songs for an encore, that was the final nail in the coffin for me. Especially after they were talking about playing the same stage 2 years ago. Between then and now you don't have enough material to cover at least an hour? Prolific! I do dig their retro 80's style (which seeps into their fashion and stage persona as well as their music), but this set just left me wanting a lot more from them.

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