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Live Review and Photos: Oberhofer, March 21, 2012, Bowery Ballroom – New York, NY

More so than any other day of the week, Wednesdays seem to be the hardest to draw out an enthusiastic crowd, so the atmosphere surrounding the show at Bowery Ballroom last night was certainly unexpected. Perhaps it’s that we were witnessing hometown favorites returning as conquering heroes from last week’s South By Southwest, but the venue was full of good vibes from the very start.

Even from the beginning of the first opener’s set, the crowd’s good will spilled over toward the stage. Jeane’s brand of muscular Strokes-indebted indie rock proved a proper primer for the night’s events. Though it seems that their entire recorded output consists of a couple of live recordings, their sound was pretty well polished. It was a short, sweet, solid set of catchy songs. “Shine Lost” with its extended instrumental breaks proved an early highlight of the night. Aside from the singer’s questionable decision to continually wander to the side of the stage during these instrumental breaks, the band displayed a level professionalism and polish atypical of many acts in their slot. Given some time, this could be a band worth watching out for.

Up next was Pond, a band that shares several members with another psychedelia-obsessed Australian group, Tame Impala. Unlike Tame Impala, their take on the 70s isn’t so much reverby, tape-warped classic rock, but a much more straightforward homage to the same period. Fresh off the release of their first album on Modular recordings, they presented just about the tightest set that I’ve ever seen from an opener. Nick Allbrook was everywhere: in the crowd, on the ground, behind the keyboard, straddling the bass player. He proved a real spark that seemed to set the band off as they tore through tracks like “Fantastic Explosion of Time.” It’s a band chock full of incredibly talented musicians and are incredibly fun to watch despite no longer featuring Tame Impala leader Kevin Parker behind the drums. By the end of their all too brief set, they had won over much of the crowd, and despite some calls for an encore from the back of the room, it was time for Brad Oberhofer and company to take the stage.

Though Oberhofer would prove to not be as musically demanding or as preeminently talented as Pond, their set was made just as interesting by the magnetic presence that Brad Oberhofer presents. In his duties as lead singer and guitarist, Oberhofer does his job quite proficiently, breezing his way through new versions of tracks like “Landline” and older favorites like “oOoO.” His pained, earnest yelp holds up quite well in a live setting. There’s something about this vocal style that seemed to lend itself to sing-alongs, as everyone around seemed to know every word and was adamant on shouting along with him. It was certainly one of those surreal concert experiences where you’re left doubting everything you know about a band’s popularity, especially since their debut full-length doesn’t see its official release until next week. But actual musical performance aside, where Brad Oberhofer truly thrives onstage is as his own hype-man. Whether it’s in his overly enthusiastic between song banter, or in his vein-popping vocal style, it’s clear that he has a lot of energy pent up in his body, and periodically throughout the night he let that energy out in destructive stage traversing bursts. It’s like he had this preternatural sense for when the songs would begin to drag and he’d kick it into overdrive. What was at one moment a mid-tempo rocker is a few moments later, well, still a mid-tempo rocker, but one that now features Oberhofer wildly careening about the stage, threatening at each moment to topple over or to run wildly into bandmates and equipment. Though some might interpret such antics as gimmicky, it truly is a pleasure to watch. It takes the focus away from his sometimes regrettable lyrical choices and puts it on the energy and passion behind the songs, which is where Oberhofer is most at home anyway.

We were presented with three young bands, on a Wednesday no less, and each one put on an entertaining and fulfilling set in their own way. Whatever the opinion on each of their slim studio outputs, each of them proved that they certainly hold their own as live bands.

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