Last Friday at the Brick, following a near-shameful performance by bluesy local trio the Grand United, the four Pomonas set up leisurely to a mostly empty house. Once they got started, I didn't even care that almost no one was there I was there, and I was going to enjoy the shit out of it. Bassist Andy Gassaway kicked his fuzz pedal and cranked out the opening riff of "Cub Astronaut" from the band's debut full-length, When You're Electric, and scattered heads began bobbing. Singer and guitarist Justin Ripley cut through the thin bar smoke with his confident tenor, sounding like a cooler, more focused Stephen Malkmus. It didn't even matter that multi-instrumentalist and rock-fashion don't Ryan Laird had shown up in shorts and running shoes.
One thing you should know about the Pomonas is that they are devoted to pop, and when writing that word in conjunction with talking about this band, I'm tempted to capitalize it. It's not Top 40 radio, and it's not about selling albums. It's more a philosophical notion of using guitars, strong melodies and toe-tapping beats to create something both transcendent and simple.
Having wiped the drool from my chin, I will say that the Pomonas don't do everything right. For one thing, Ripley's voice is so perfect for the music that it's disappointing to hear him share almost half of the vocal duties with Gassaway, who's not a bad singer but is barely a shadow of Ripley, vocally.
I wish Ripley would fucking front the band, too. Their setup requires instrument swaps between Laird and Gassaway, so Ripley stands to the side, violating the feng shui of live music. It's not how it's done.
Also, when the Pomonas veered into shaky, instrumental, psychedelic territory toward the end of their set, they shot holes in the wonderful mood that their previous masterful tunes had created. I'm not saying they shouldn't feel free to get crazy, but they should get good at it first. There's a reason near-perfect pop bands like Fountains of Wayne stay away from the Jazz Odysseys you just don't fuck with a good thing.
Speaking of good things (OK, Pomonas, you're dismissed), the evening had one more delight in store: a fast and glorious set by Baby Birds Don't Drink Milk. This is a group for indie-rock lovers, especially anyone who revels in the soaring, driving passages of Broken Social Scene or Appleseed Cast.
So there you have it: two great new bands for your list of must-sees. Don't say I never did nothin' for you.