John Norris at Northside, Day Four: A Love Letter to Ponytail

06/15/2009 9:06 AM |

If you live in, as they say, the tri-state area, and you have not yet seen Ponytail live, I have a question:
What is wrong with you? Why do you deny yourself pleasure? Do you not like to have fun? Really not to be all Dr. Phil about it but there are few enough chances to experience the unmitigated joy that this foursome brings every time it takes the stage, to not experience it is to be masochistic. More gushing in a minute.

First though, I gotta say it was disappointing to find Studio B, which previously during this weekend’s Northside Festival played host to big crowds for Sunset Rubdown and Bishop Allen, poorly attended on the final night. Maybe because folks were worn out, maybe because it was a Sunday, maybe they had their fill at Todd P.’s all-day acoustic beach party—whatever the reason, early on, for openers Thank You, the crowd was, putting it kindly, sparse.

Nevertheless the Baltimore trio turned in a fine performance—jagged shards of guitar, syncopated clanging drums, punctuated by layers of synths. Add to that screamo vocal chants and the occasional sleighbell—it all made for trancelike silvery sheets of sound that, particularly as the set drew to a close, were captivating.

If Thank You are silver, Ponytail are undeniably, fantastically candy colored. The over used descriptives are tired by now: sugar rush, pixie stick, hyperactive yada yada—enough. I defy you to find another Ponytail because how could there be? Even to look at them is to smile—moptopped Jeremy Hyman and his gut busting backbeat, the guitar shred-off between Dustin Wong and Ken Seeno—the Asian prodigy, the Pennsylvania noodler—is stunning, and then at the center of it all, clad tonight in her Baltimore Ravens jersey, is that pint sized banshee with a language all her own, Molly Siegel.

Her whoops and shrieks and brrrrr-yeah!s, her contortions like a woman possessed are a drug—who needs ecstasy when you’ve got Molly? In fact one of my favorite pastimes at Ponytail shows (and I’ve seen em five times in a year) are watching the newbies in the crowd discover something like they have never seen, and give themselves over to joyous abandon. Molly told me that she’s recently been going through a period of stage nerves (and you can read my full conversation with Ponytail soon right here) but you would never know it on this night — she waded onto the Studio B floor, by now about a third full, giving the bouncing souls an added thrill. Highlights were, as ever, the crashing “Beg Waves,” the mania of “Late For School” (with Ken’s big six words of the night: “Oh no. I’m late for school.”) and the gloriously epic “Celebrate the Body Electric” with its several movements: the chant of “Away We Go Now”! the chill out trancey middle that explodes into Wong and Seeno wail — and finally that glorious arms-in-the-air finish, “Ahh Ah Ahh Ah Ahh Ah Ahh Ah!”

The world’s a better place because of Ponytail. Listen to me or don’t—I don’t care. But if you don’t go see them at their next New York appearance, on July 12th with Mission of Burma and Fucked Up, well, then you don’t deserve to smile.

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