Monday, July 13, 2009

First Pool Party A Smash

After weeks of torrential rain and scaremongering on the part of overzealous scenesters, I fully expected the first Pool Party at Williamsburg's East River State Park (held yesterday) to be rather underwhelming. Instead, with a somewhat superfluous VIP area -- come on, guys, it's a free show -- and perhaps too many accouterments (outside of the main concert area, the music seemed rather peripheral... which wasn't necessarily a bad thing, as you will see) going on in the shadows of a seemingly abandoned condo development (see Eagle article from last week), the setting was somewhat surreal. Only a rusting fence lined with bikes prevented the confluence of big business and the unpaved lot adjoining the condo complex.

Overall, the event was something of a smash. Admittedly, Ponytail have never been my cup of tea. When seeing them open for Jens Lekman on two hours' sleep last fall at CMJ, I remarked to my improbable show buddy -- a recently laid off investment banker -- in an oh-so-obstreperous manner that there were several teen garage bands who could play much better. Ten months later, one must still get acclimated to Molly Siegel's onomatopoeic vocals and the breakneck pseudo-Pixies guitars, but constant touring has improved their sense of dynamics to the point where you could almost take them home to grandma. Furthermore, the lack of dissimilarity between songs was oddly appropriate at this event: there was enough primal energy for a mosh pit to get started in the main stage area, but those wishing to get overpriced burgers, play dodgeball (couldn't the hipsters have chosen golf or something less taxing as their international sport?) and Cafe Bustelo tote bags could appreciate the onslaught from afar on a purely musical level.

After hitting up the book vendors on Bedford Avenue -- for those not in the know, their selections are comparable to and often exceed the Strand... with none of the fuss and smugness -- I returned to hear Marty Markowitz's requisite speech being looped and electronically mangled by Mission of Burma sound engineer Bob Weston, presumably the latest demonstration of Marty's new avant-garde cred. While I didn't get to actually see their set, as the view was blocked by burger cooks, the veteran post punk group blended old 80s favorites ("Einstein's Day") and more unfamilar new material (with a clear dance influence) in a stunning demonstration of their relevancy. With contemporaries Sonic Youth just shy of geezer status at this point, seeing these fiftysomethings hold their own with much younger groups was quite validating. Here's a video.

All in all, a good time was had by all.

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