Matt Pond PA floods Mission with smooth tunes

Although Mission Dining Hall might be more commonly associated with all-you-can-eat brunches, not an omelet was in sight as the crowds got their fill of the soothing and lively sounds of Matt Pond PA last Friday night.

The group initially gained recognition for its debut album, Deer Apartments, in CDNow’s Unheard Competition for unsigned artists. Founded by Matt Pond in Philadelphia in 1998, the band name is a gesture to its origins as well as to Magnum P.I.

Since then, Matt Pond PA has gone on to produce seven albums along with four EPs, and has covered Oasis’ humorous classic “Champagne Supernova” on the hit show The O.C.

At present, the band consists of Pond on vocals and guitar, Dan Crowell on drums, Steve Jewett also on guitar, Matthew Daniel Siskin on bass and Chris Hansen on keyboard and guitar.

Despite his aversion to fame, Pond still captivates the interest of many – a man who, according to the band’s Web site, “enjoys these things in no particular order: swimming, rice and beans, Maker’s Mark, pants, a cats named Pickle, Crime Mob, potato pancakes and Canada.”

The concert kicked off with the keyboard-filled “So Much Trouble” from the group’s 2005 album, Several Arrows Later – a stereotypically chill indie ballad with an upbeat rhythm. The set continued with the addition of maracas like those featured in “Summer (Butcher Two)” from the band’s 2004 album, Emblems.

The crowd favorite, which was requested by name, seemed to be “Halloween,” also from Several Arrows Later. It might be the pleading sound of Pond’s voice or the fresh lyrics such as “I heard it’s modern to be stupid” that led to the song’s reverence.

My personal favorites included “Claire” from Emblems for its driving beat, and “Last Light,” from their 2007 album of the same name, for its fun paradoxes such as “In the end there will be only endlessness.”

The music’s steady drums created a feeling of sorrow and regret, and the band even included a tambourine at one point, such as in “Last Song,” which evokes a kind of family unity with slightly folk sounding guitar riffs and friendly strings.

At the start of “Last Song,” Pond attempted to be suave and throw a tambourine into the air, but failed to catch it three times while proclaiming that: the following song “goes like – goes like – goes like – this!” The crowd cheered him on throughout the concert, and a cacophony of screams greeted their the band’s final song.

The smooth lighting and the glass walls of Mission Dining Hall contributed to the concert’s ambience. The band’s location literally on the same level as the audience created an extremely intimate setting for those that could see, although that only included the first and second row.

Overall, the concert was tremendous fun and a success – dancing, close quarters and good reflective music that evoked feelings of melancholy as well as hope and unity, helped me to breathe easier and just let go.

Matt Pond PA rushed onto the scene 10 years ago and seems only to be growing stronger. Although its latest album Last Light seems to summon images of twilight and nostalgia with its lonesome guitars and sparse strings, the band seems to be gaining energy and recognition towards an even brighter future.

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