After a long summer of arena-pop shows, mega-raves and giant festivals, The Spin was totally in need of a low-key, low-attendance local rock show with a bunch of bands people have barely heard about. We had to get back to our roots, y'all — pyro and light shows and, um, foam-rubber penis costumes are all well and good, but sometimes it's just fun to watch great musicians play great music without all the bells and whistles. Thursday night at the Exit/In was exactly what the doctor ordered: a pretense-free show with local stalwarts Hands Down Eugene and newcomers By Lightning! and Ponychase.
For starters, any evening where two-thirds of the bill has a Jerry Pentecost-Matt Moody rhythm section is just going to rule. Each of those dudes is a force to be reckoned with on his own, but when you put the two together it makes for the most solid foundation a rock band could ever ask for. It's some stone-cold rock 'n' roll rhythm right there, folks. Hands Down Eugene started the night off, with Moody on bass and vocal duties, and sent in a killer set of George Harrison-meets-Doug Martsch stoner pop. The Spin isn't exactly sure why these guys never quite caught on around here, because they are incredible every time we see them, and the songs are some of the best in town.
We hate to throw around the "super-group" tag, 'cuz it's kinda trite and overused, but that's pretty much the only way to describe By Lightning. How else do you describe a band made up of members of De Novo Dahl, the late lamented Dixie Dirt and the aforementioned Pentecost-Moody rhythm section? Super is the only way to describe it. Sorta folky, definitely poppy and prone to just, well, rocking the fuck out, By Lightning! are seven folks having such a good time making music that the fun becomes contagious, and even crusty rock critics have to smile and shout. The thing that rules about By Lightning! is that even though there are seven people onstage, there's tons of dynamic ebb and flow. It's not full-blast for a full set. And lots of hand clapping. Which is nice, because onstage hand clapping has seen a decline in town in recent years.
An again, we hate to overuse the whole "super-group" thing. But damn, Ponychase! Doni and Beth from Forget Cassettes in a band with Jordan and Alex Caress? That's a goddamn super-group too! That's four of the most accomplished and creative musicians this rock scene has ever produced all on one stage at one time. And then when you add in the fact that they make late '80s-style dream pop that managed to somehow remind us of Kate Bush and Automatic-era Jesus and Mary Chain — well, if J+MC could, like, actually sing and play — you've got some serious record-critic bait. If you put a Ponychase song in a bear trap, it's a guarantee that The Spin would die an agonizing death alone in the woods — and be totally stoked about it.
A lot of bands are trying to pull off this synthy, pre-shoegaze ethereal sound, but none that we've heard — and we've heard a lot of them — have the musical and vocal chops to pull it off. Ponychase, on the other hand, have two of the best singers you're liable to find anywhere blowing minds in tandem. The songwriting is great too — dramatic without being histrionic, hazy without being meandering, gorgeous without going too far off the deep end into self-absorbed wankery. It's some seriously breathtaking stuff. Even our metal-as-a-motherfucker photographer admitted that Ponychase is one of the best new bands in town! Let's just say that The Spin was left slack-jawed by the coolness we saw on stage this Thursday, even though there were no explosions or foam genitals.