Thursday · 20th Century Theatre
"It sucks, but it's not the worst thing that could happen," says Matt Pond, founder and frontman of his succinctly monikered band, Matt Pond PA. Speaking by cell phone from a tour stop in Boston, Pond's opening words refer to every band's worst nightmare: Someone stole their gear after a recent gig in New York City, the quintet's home base for the last three years. A day later their van broke down. "We're experiencing one terrible thing after the other, yet somehow nobody's fazed," says Pond.
Reminiscent of textured, Pop-friendly units like Nada Surf and late-era Superchunk, the band's melody-infested, string-laden Several Arrows Later brims with feeling, delivering one jangly gem after the next. "When I started I didn't really want people to see anything," says Pond. "Creating distance is something I'm not interested in as much any more. I think this record is the most direct thing we've ever done."
Seven years and several members after the band's initial recordings, Pond believes the current cast of PAers -- guitarist/keyboardist Brian Pearl, drummer Dan Crowell, cellist Dana Feder and bassist Daniel Mitha -- is his most cohesive collective yet. He's just as happy with his small, artist-friendly label, Altitude. "(Major labels) pretty much can't make something work organically at this point. I think the way we're doing things -- nobody breathing down our necks -- it just makes things easy, and I like easiness.
If it wasn't for our broken-down van and our stolen gear, man, life would be even easier." (Jason Gargano)
Tub Ring with Foxy Shazam, Banderas and Ukraine Crane
Sunday · The Mad Hatter
Take one part They Might Be Giants and one part At the Drive-In and ... what? Can that possibly work? If you're Tub Ring, it can. As Progressive Rock influence continues to gain momentum, the Chicago quintet is simultaneously riding both the infectious Prog-Pop and music-as-mad-science wave fronts. It's hard to believe that they've been at it since 1992, because their most recent disc, 2004's Zoo Hypothesis, sounds like an Emo Punk band just OD'd on Mr. Bungle. If the freshness of the whole affair seems incongruent with their tenure, chalk it up to the fountain of youth that is perpetual evolution and experimentation. All of their albums have been brimming with schoolboy enthusiasm, soaked in dynamic musicianship, stylistic restlessness, geeky lyrics and hilarious song titles. While they spent almost a decade developing a dedicated fan base and releasing entertaining EPs, the 'Ring became a permanent stain in 2001, when Trey Spruance (Bungle, Secret Chiefs 3) produced their album Drake Equation. A celebration of postmodern Rock bliss, it set the stage for them to top themselves with every effort, which they have. They keep their sound contemporary without pandering, but there is a timeless element to their vaudevillian act. Tub Ring plays it a lot straighter than musical misfits like Bungle or Ween, but would be appreciated by fans of either. Tub Ring are the heirs apparent to the thirtysomething music nerd following. So, um ... see ya there? (Ezra Waller)
Devin Townsend Band with Opeth and Dark Tranquility
Sunday · Bogart's
This has to be one of the most extreme alter egos since Steve from Blue's Clues started making Indie Rock. For those who don't know, Devin Townsend is the singer/guitarist for Strapping Young Lad, an Industrial Prog/Death Metal band that is so heavy you'll forget they're Canadian. Then there's Synchestra, the latest CD from DT's eponymous band. It's a playfully majestic journey that could almost be mistaken for a new Yes project (or, more specifically, an ABWH album minus the falsetto). To be fair, Townsend has had plenty of side and solo projects (including one with Jason Newsted that famously caused his Metallica bandmates to whine until he gave it up), but none of the recorded works have been this expansive. Lush, kaleidoscopic songwriting and mountains of layered synths and digitized guitars and drums are assembled to create a listening experience that borders on spiritual in spots. Some of it is reminiscent of "guitar hero" albums (Townsend has done time singing for Steve Vai, and Vai contributed a solo to the track "Triumph"), but DTB sidesteps the usual trappings of soulless Fusion and meedly-meeing by infusing the project with an organic quality and a healthy dose of diversity. One minute it's a Danny Elfman soundtrack, and the next it's a lost Queen recording session or Brian Eno dabbling. As melodic themes resurface and transform, you realize you're not listening to a collection of SYL outtakes or basement tapes, but a fully realized Rock opus. The quality will come as no surprise to DT's devotees, who expect nothing less from Vancouver's Metal renaissance man. Unfortunately, there's only a brief window to push Synchestra out to Pop Metal aficionados; this summer SYL is due to release a new disc and begin touring. Next time Townsend gets a chance to make more DTB music, it might (and probably will) sound completely different, so show up early to check out this rising phenom. (EW)