When two ideologies come to a head, the rhetoric follows closely.
There were certainly two schools of thought which threatened to clash at the Water Rats tonight, and clash they did. Passenger’s affable acoustic indie, sterile enough to invite a troop of gynaecologists down, against The Pony’s washed out, 90s leaning gungy US indie rock that had the kids out in force.
“Enough of this contemporary shit,” Ponys singer Jered Gummere spits, “we are the Ponys from Chicago, Illinois and it’s time for some rock n’ roll.”
He is referring indistinctly to Passenger. Where the Ponys are the kids drinking cheap beer and smoking cigarettes behind the school gym, Passenger are the doyennes of the mediocrity on this doomed isle.
The Brighton five-piece are likeable in a mum-sings-it-while doing-house-the-work way, which is possibly enough to expel them into an onerous V Festival existence, (matter of fact they’re there later this year).
And so they should, since they churn out vapid daytime radio fodder. The sort that controllers insist on slaying their audiences with. Perhaps it lies in frontman Mike Rosenberg’s freakishly high notes (almost on par with Mr Blunt) and the band’s festive rhythm onstage. They’re like Athlete on Red Bull, if ever such a thing could exist.
The Ponys, by contrast, are a godsend. Meaty, distortion heavy US indie has been off the map since ’94. These are indie kids who like they’ve toured their asses off, washed once, play dirty clubs and get wrecked after. Well they have, on this the final night of their European tour.
So their set veers from feedback soggy numbers like Double Vision and Shine, to guitars breaking, sound hiccups and bad taste jokes. They’re a pretty intriguing hybrid of Experimental Jet Set era Sonic Youth (1209 Semetary) and garage rock (Everyday Weapon).
The presence of bassist Melissa Elias, bouncing on her boots and her husband Gummere’s mop of hair enhances the creepy likeness to the Yoof. Coupled with long wall of sound jams, the Ponys provide a welcome diversion from the new wave boom of indie bands emerging both sides of the pond.
It also helps that this kind of live show – raw, sweaty and on the darker side of the indie rock map – can easily blow away others less able. As Passenger found out, ideology is a great thing until it meets another. I guess clash was the wrong word, this was David vs. Goliath the director’s cut.