SAN FRANCISCO – As Australian rockers Pond laid into its 90-minute set, a capacity audience at the Independent grooved and moved to tunes that ranged from contemplative synth odes to girthy classic rock stompers.
Pond’s approach was total commitment from the get-go. The quintet waded into colorful dimensions of layered and undulating sound, buoyed by bandleader Nick Allbrook’s high kicks and urgent vocals. Allbrook sported a mangy crop of dirty blond hair and the sprightliness of an exuberant child. He sang lead on every song and played guitar on most, hewing some tough leads from the surrounding lithosphere of sonic warmth. On the astute “Zen Automaton,” amid simmering showers of twinkly piano, Allbrook forayed into some Jagger-like dance shakes between slow passages of melodic vocals. During a rare hands-free moment, he swung his microphone and landed it draped over his shoulder before rushing back to the mic stand and coming in on cue.
Other highlights of the performance included the poetical “Daisy,” a ruminant memory wash of sun-drenched splendor about the virtues of spring; and the catchy “Paint Me Silver.” The welcoming outro to “The Weather,” the title track to the band’s 2017 album, churned and cruised on a brilliantly straightforward chordal gambol. Pond even ventured into heavier territory with the Sabbath-tinged “Aloneaflameaflower,” as Allbrook reached back for some throaty screams that surprisingly recalled Mark Arm.
Onstage, Jamie Terry held down a tasteful synth barrage and an indomitable smile, while multi-instrumentalist Jay Watson anchored the arrangement on bass and second keyboard. Talented drummer James Ireland showed tasteful restraint, nailing organic fills with gusto and fortitude while keeping the danceable backbeat. Guitarist “Shiny” Joe Ryan rocked the clear cutting tones of a blue Telecaster and what he described, between Irish jokes, as Hendrix hair.
Toward the end of the set, Allbrook addressed the audience in a conversational banter.
“Take care of each other, take care of yourselves,” Allbrook implored in his Perth accent and with the muddling earnestness of rock and roll’s true believers.. “And take care of the grass, the water, the air. We like things like that.”
Despite having played Washington, D.C. two nights prior, Pond did not appear tired or road-weary at any time Wednesday. During rare moments when the band’s slow grooves created a lull, emotional resonance from an emerging chorus or a substantial melody lured concertgoers back to the present. An encore including major romper “Giant Tortoise” capped a compelling performance. With charm, artistry and professionalism, Pond captured an enduring spirit of San Francisco, digging the scene and taking it in. The band and audience coalesced in a synergistic field of rock contentedness.
Supporting act Maraschino, a project of vocalist Piper Durabo, played a shortened set of only five songs. During the first tune, an apparent instrumental misfire led to an uncomfortable interlude, as Durabo halted her band mid-song and seemed to jokingly scold band members for “playing too much.” The Los Angeles group had dual keyboards and a sound akin to Ladytron with splashes of Debbi Harry’s worldly, wise impishness. Their set was highlighted by the flute accents and dance moves by Courtney Garvin.
Pond plays its next gig in Hollywood this Sunday, before embarking on a short European tour.