By Stephen Kane
Never mind the glitter, face-paint and sparkles—Philadelphia’s Dangerous Ponies are fierce and musically tighter than ever. Friday, March 29, saw the seven-inch record release of Dangerous Ponies new “TenderHeart EP” at Milkboy Philadelphia.
Boasting a star-studded lineup, the show quickly generated a buzz among many local music fans, officially giving it the title “event of the evening.” Offering enough power-pop rock for even the most elitist listener, three of the four on the bill of featured bands were at last month’s South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.
The show served as a record release as well as a brief welcome back for the Ponies, as they continue their spring tour. Joining them were the west-coast country boys of Desert Noises and the psychedelic genius of Brooklyn-based Starlight Girls.
Milkboy Philadelphia is a unique venue in Center City—the downstairs holds a full-service restaurant with tables and booths next to an impressively sized bar while the upstairs has a room with a performance stage suitable for stellar live shows and a second bar in the back.
As an extension of the Milkboy Coffee location in Ardmore (which just started the Milkboy On Tap series), the city location is a coffee house and restaurant by day and concert venue/bar by night.
With $3 drink specials and a sound system comparable to some of Philly’s larger venues, Milkboy caters directly to the event seekers and live music enthusiasts everywhere. Shortly after 8 p.m., people started to gather in the dimly lit second floor of Milkboy anticipating the first band.
Utah natives Desert Noises then took the stage with country-blues guitar and synchronous vocal harmonies. The four-piece played an explosive set of songs with similarity between Tom Petty and Tame Impala.
“This next song is about Stephen Hawking,” said guitarist and lead vocalist Kyle Henderson before leading into “Birds.” With song-writing in the same realm as many folk and country all-stars, Desert Noises sound similar and pay homage to the classic, beloved rock ‘n roll of heartland America. Desert Noises continue their spring tour, ending in Toledo, Ohio on April 5 at Mickey Finns Pub.
Next to take the stage were the psychedelic pop sensations of Starlight Girls from Brooklyn, N.Y. A visualizer backdrop provided a multimedia experience that combined flawlessly with their surrealistic melody and drive.
A frenzy of dance-pop brightened the room and left audience members mesmerized by the gypsy-like grooves. Lead vocalist/keyboardist/flutist Christina B. sings with suave skill and swooning hooks, reminiscent of French singer/songwriter superstar Francoise Hardy.
In addition to boasting an outstanding front-woman, Starlight Girls as a whole works together in perfected harmony, allowing the audience to be lifted for an otherworldly experience. Think of a young Jefferson Airplane infused with your favorite B-Horror films within the Andy Warhol “factory” visual aesthetic.
Being the first time Starlight Girls have played Philadelphia, the band definitely will be returning to critical acclaim next time through. With pop-sensibility unmatched by any current act, Starlight Girls anticipate nation-wide reception. Sunday, April 7, the band played a sold out show at the Mercury Lounge in New York with Nick Waterhouse.
After Starlight Girls’ revolutionary performance, it was time for the Dangerous Ponies to make their way to the stage. Returning from SXSW the band was welcomed back to their hometown of Philly and while sporting a new record and new bass player there was plenty commotion.
The crowd made their way close to the front, excited to see the spirited local band play. Sparkling with talent and décor, the Dangerous Ponies packed the stage and started their set.
With a full crowd packed even to the back of the bar, people were singing along to each chorus and dancing song after song. Guitarist and lead vocalist Chrissy Tashijan sang with unmatched enthusiasm during each hook and verse. The pop rock dynamics within the band were fueled by brilliant guitarist Evan Bernard, who sonically takes the band to a whole new level.
The audience swayed and chanted along with the love-stricken lyrics, working as a unified force together in song. Keyboardist and vocalist Sarah Mackenzie danced on stage in harmony with other band members, eventually leading to a masquerade slow-dance in the middle of the crowd.
Playing each song off of their “TenderHeart EP,’’’the Dangerous Ponies played an incredible set including classic material as well.
The release celebration of the Ponies’ new seven-inch was met with a fantastic turnout. The versatility of a band like the Dangerous Ponies keeps the local music scene of Philadelphia aflame and very much alive. The band moves onward for their spring tour, which ends on April 24 at Club K in Baltimore, Md.
Each band played tremendously together, providing an amazing night for live music. The camaraderie within the audience allowed each member to share in the exciting experience.
With two out of the four bands being from Philly, it shows just how prominent the local music scene is. Milkboy Philadelphia has more events lined up for spring shows this season, and it is definitely highly recommended to check them out.