I’ve only recent caught on to the wonderful music that Ponderosa is putting out. Based out of Atlanta, Ponderosa aren’t afraid of wearing their influences on their sleeves and adding subtle twists to their sounds to create something that’s unique in its own sense, but still straddling close to home base. It’d be easy to say that they’re a My Morning Jacket/Band of Horses knock-off because quite frankly they’ve got astounding amounts of similarity, guitars that are laden with delay and reverb and equally ethereal vocal melodies driven home by powerful harmonies. However, if your only drawback is sounding too much like another stellar band then my opinion is that you’re doing something right. Studio recordings can warrant these comparisons, but when it comes to live shows Ponderosa brings an intensity that supersedes these expectations.
The show kicked off with a local act, The Cousins. I went into this show blind to their music and not knowing what to expect, and while the band was incredibly tight for it being one of their first shows together, the tunes just weren’t really up to par for the kind of night I was expecting at Kings. While I’m not saying lineups need to be cookie-cutter and a band should sound like their headliner, I certainly wasn’t expecting a Diet Drive By Truckers. The Cousins combined the grit and intensity of southern driven indie rock tunes with classic rock sentiments of clean electric leads that glide in and out with the rise and fall of their mostly static melodies. While they certainly filled the room with energy and excitement, I just couldn’t get into their music. They did it in for me when they pulled out their Merle Haggard, “Long Black Veil” cover…and maybe that’s just because I’ve been spoiled to a personal treat of watching Mandolin Orange cover the tune with Josh Oliver and Josh Moore, but their modern-classic rock take on the country classic just did nothing for me. There’s definitely promise within the band, but the songwriting and composition needs a bit of improvement before I go singing any praises.
Ponderosa on the other hand provided exactly what I’d hoped for from their live performance. Their full length, Pool Party has been my morning soundtrack for the past few months and I must say that they’re a band that puts it all into their live performance. While their studio recordings are equally dynamic, still capable of evoking strong emotion and nostalgia, their live show exudes a sense of dedication and passion that can only be felt inside of a venue. Ponderosa delicately lays out beautiful southern imagery through an echoed indie rock lens that makes for a joyous listening experience. Tracks like “Pool Party” draw on teenage experiences of fading memories, taking the listener back to the humid summer nights that make up the life of southern youth. "Find a bed and never sleep/Awake at night and steal the sheets", Ponderosa’s simplicity is oftentimes the reason that you can connect so deeply with this band, they’ve taken away all of the filters that can be found within a songwriter’s approach and the result is a beautifully honest and relatable record.
While they made a bold leap from the blues driven tunes found in their debut, the new loud/soft/loud psychedelic sound that they’ve adopted fits them perfectly. Vocalist Kalen Nash is capable of soft spoken melodies that sweetly fill the airwaves or a startling shout that matches the sudden intensity of tracks like “Navajo’”, which boasts a booming chorus and low-key verses. Ponderosa left my floored, they’re a stellar band that has truly re-invisioned themselves between releases, something that was made evident when they came out for an encore of older tunes. While the tracks were far more blues driven, they contained equal amounts of intensity and honesty. Ponderosa is a band that can package themselves however they wish, but the passion and talent will always bleed through no matter what. And that’s what makes the mark of a fantastic live band, a title that Ponderosa can proudly wear upon their chests.