A little over two years ago, a CD sampler fell into my lap containing one standout track I couldn’t stop listening to. My commute to work went something like this: start car, shuffle through five CD cases before finding desired sampler, insert disc, skip to song 7, begin head bobbing, commence foot stomping (not the one on the accelerator, of course), drive off, repeat daily. The exploding opening riff and heart-tugging melody combined with the oddly but perfectly spaced lyrical intonation and jolts of echoing cello made Matt Pond PA’s “Fairlee” the song I couldn’t live without. I eventually ditched the sampler for 2002’s The Nature of Maps before seeking out and becoming familiar with the band’s previous work. This past year brought a much-anticipated follow-up: the stirring, autumnal Emblems, which I’d been ceaselessly listening to the week before the band’s show in East Atlanta.
Matt Pond writes and sings about love and nature (each show even begins with the sound of chirping crickets). Sounds simple enough, but he wonders about their sometimes unassuming asperity so innocently and forgivingly, and his band matches this wonder with such melodic and sympathetic consistency, that our everyday commonness becomes mysterious and hopefully strange.
Opening the show with “Last Song” from Emblems, Pond’s vocal clarity—paired with Eve Miller’s answering cello—illuminates the entire set. Miller’s cello is a focal point of the night, not only because she was center stage, but also because of her classical muse, which brought a new dynamic to a pop/rock concert. Before becoming loud and guitar-driven, one song starts out with a two-minute adagio. It’s refreshing and unexpected, humbling and sad, and it works beautifully.
Closing the show after about an hour, the band is beckoned back on stage, immediately erupting into “Fairlee.” For me, it’s the perfect way for them to go out—just the way they showed up, abrupt but welcome, knocking (and rocking) loudly.