Last Night: Matt Pond PA and The Walkmen at Langerado
Matt Pond PA, The Walkmen
March 7, 2008
Langerado, Big Cypress Reserve
Better Than: A hot-buttered steam bath.
Matt Pond PA
If there were two more incongruous acts to stage in the swamplands, I can’t think of ’em. I mean, both are New York indie heavyweights, which means each are steeped in the kinda urbanity only a city can provide. And both would seem to be tailormade for taverns (or, in a better world, arenas), rather than the great big outdoors that is Big Cypress.
Which why it was such a treat to catch both Matt Pond PA and The Walkmen on the Chickee Hut stage at Langerado yesterday afternoon. Yeah, it was odd, and yeah, it was hot, but no one seemed at all bothered by the unevenness of it all.
Even Matt Pond, frontman of the eponymously named band, who battled boil and swelter and heckle and hive to deliver one damn cool set. Maybe it was the steaming beer, which he gulped with all the gusto of Bukowski. Or perhaps it was the extra-warm whiskey, which came tossed from the front lines in a water bottle and was caught and swallowed with the deftness of a man who believes in the power of spirits. Whatever it was, it was something else – and then some.
First there was the voice, which even in the big wide open has the same gruff quality that’s made his many records sound like a secret whispered in your ear after the sun sets – and the mistakes have been made. I walked in on “The Crush,” one of the beat-iest tracks on last year’s Last Light, and didn’t leave till the final chord strummed on “So Much Trouble” (from ‘05’s Several Arrows Later). In between there was a slew of Light offerings, including “Giving it All Away” and “Sunlight,” the sum-it-up song I’ve sent to every girl I’ve wronged over the last year. (With a line like “I wish you could say, when I fuck up that it’s okay” how could I not?)
Sure, there was more, and I may have even got the last song wrong, but you try scribbling in a pad when you’re fingers all sweaty and your smile’s as large as the sun.
Which was another welcome issue I encountered when The Walkmen hit the Hut: one huge sweaty smile. I speak of “The Rat,” for which I set myself dead center before the stage so it could chew me to pieces. Okay, so I walked away from the bitten and bitter barrage (hey, they’re The Walkmen), but I didn’t walk away unscathed. Or unmoved.
Yes, the inner-city badasses kicked more than a few standouts from ‘06’s swampy A Hundred Miles Off (I recall “Louisiana” and, I think, “All Hands and the Cook”), but it was the roar and the rush of “The Rat” which I was after, and which caught me cold-hearted, even amid the extreme heat.
I gotta give it to the great good folk at Langerado for bringing down a line-up that consists of more than the standard jam bands. Hell, they could book all the remaining Dead and their grandkids and still have easily brought in 50,000-plus. But in stretching the array, they stretched minds, and they stretched hearts, and for this scribbler, anyway, they even managed to stretch a hot buttered soul. -- John Hood
Personal Bias: I awoke many a morning in The City That Never Sleeps, so Big Apple bands always seem to sway me greatly.
Random Detail: Walkmen drummer Matt Barrick pounds his floor tom with a maraca, which I think he stole from Matt Pond.