Montreal cuties Pony Up! were in town this week to promote their sophomore album Stay Gold, follow up to the hugely popular Make Love To The Judges With Your Eyes. According to bassist Lisa Smith, Aussies are Pony Up’s #1 fans – still in the ranks of the ‘almost famous’ in their native Canada and some parts of Europe, the Ponies really took off here when Triple J put the instantly recognisably ditty The Truth About Cats And Dogs (Is That They Die) on high rotation – and so it was surprising then that the band didn’t look happier to be here when they played at Oxford Art Factory on Thursday night.
Performing to a decent (though hardly sold out) crowd, Pony Up! turned out a solid but somewhat lacklustre set that felt more like a rehearsal than a show, only seeming to warm up just in time for the encore. The fact that the two lead singers, Laura Wills and Jess Moundroukas, were stuck behind their instruments (guitar and keys) the whole time probably didn’t help, but save for a bit of jumping up and down and skirt twirling on Laura’s part, the lack of personality, banter and enthusiasm onstage made the foursome come across borderline apathetic.
That said, the Ponies’ new songs are everything indie pop should be – hooky, hummable, and downright fun. A slightly rockier, darker edge showed that the band has grown up with this new album, and it was in the moodier songs that they shone, particularly Laura, whose voice has more depth than one might have thought from the first album. Perhaps the smartest thing about Pony Up’s music is that they follow the K.I.S.S rule of keeping it simple (stupid) and so their songs are easy – easy to listen to, easy to sing, easy to like – and in pop, that’s a good thing.
Supporting Pony Up! was Ben Fletcher’s Sydney based outfit The Devoted Few, whose sound is more thoughtful rock than the Ponies’ effervescent pop and fit the bill nicely (although incidentally the line up choice probably had more to do with the fact that the two bands share the same management, Laughing Outlaw). Fletcher is a pleasure to watch, so thoroughly absorbed in the heartfelt, melodic music that he makes, and the rest of the band does a great job of supporting him whilst letting him be the main attraction. Their layered sound was also well suited to the venue - Oxford Art has not a bad little sound system – and it was nice to be able to hear all the nuances of the performance. Special mention must be made of the guitarist bearing an uncanny resemblance to John Lennon for being particularly aesthetically pleasing in a John Lennon kind of way.
Hopefully for Pony Up! Thursday night’s gig was a temporary flat-line on the chart. The songs are there, as are the heckling groupies (“Can I be in your band?”), all they need next tour is a live show that lives up to the energy and spark of their albums.