Matt Pond PA/Bobby Long; May 10, 2010; Mad Planet, Milwaukee
The only down side to going to Milwaukee last night was that I knew I had to go back again tonight. I was definitely going despite it being an exhausting start to the week because Matt Pond PA just doesn’t tour much. In fact, even though I’ve been a fan for something like ten years, I’ve only seen them three times before, each time separated by years. What started as a cello heavy band (two (!) the first time I saw them) has morphed into a five piece rock band. The thing is the band almost seems unnecessary. Unlike the cello, surprisingly, the two guitar, bass and drums backing to Pond’s acoustic seemed superfluous. I’d have rather seen him solo, and as long as I’m wishful thinking, in my basement. That at least would have avoided the uncomfortable moment when Pond saw someone stealing from their merch table at the back of the room. “Did you actually just steal some of our stuff?” Pond asked incredulously. I couldn’t see what was going on, but apparently the thief was not returning what he had taken in spite of being caught because Pond left the stage and went to confront of him.
The incident just seemed to compound what was a strange atmosphere in the room. The between song banter had already been uncomfortable with Pond not really seeming happy to be there. The rest of the band however remained upbeat, one of the guitar players in particular grinned happily the whole night. When people asked how the show was I summed it up as “weird.” However, it was definitely all OK whenever Pond was singing. Even though recent records have been noticeably catchier than earlier releases, it is all pretty undeniably mellow. The charm of it is his voice, an instantly comforting tenor. It’s never really mattered much what he is singing about, just that he is singing it. The set list was surprising in that rather than focus on new release The Dark Leaves, it leaned heavily on 2004’s Emblems. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it’s just that I really wanted to hear “Starting” the opening track from Leaves, not to mention many other songs all of which were love at first listen. And honestly I haven’t listened to Emblems in ages. Adding to my lack of recognition was that apparently MPPA released an album in 2007 that I didn’t even know about called Last Light. Oddly, the highlight of the set was “Lily Too,” a song requested by an audience member which Pond asserted they weren’t playing on this tour. Though in truth, “pleaded for” would be more accurate than “requested.” Seldom have I seen someone this deliriously happy with having a request fulfilled.
The evening had gotten off to a bad start. I arrived at Mad Planet at ten minutes before the time listed on the web site, 9 PM- already late for being 90 miles from home, only to find a sign on the door stating doors would open at 9 PM. Well, crap, that explained all the people sitting in their cars in the parking lot. Once I was in, I got a Red Bull and sat on the steps near the stage trying not to think about how late I was going to get home. To his credit opener Bobby Long started right at 10. He had a nice voice and was a decent guitar player, but after twenty minutes or so I’d had enough. Unfortunately he played another forty, definitely too long for an opener. The worst part was an overly long version of “House of the Rising Sun.” At least I think that’s what it is, after the very recognizeable opening line none of it sounded familiar. Apparently, he is very popular with the female population of Milwaukee who crowded the stage early, squealed with delight for every song and snapped flash pictures at an annoying rate. They were obviously only there for him and the room emptied noticeably before MPPA took the stage. Hmmm, maybe that’s what got Pond so crabby.
Matt Pond PA