Pom Poko live at Whelan’s, April 6th 2019
The laws of pseudo-science and coverage of SXSW by the NME circa 2008 dictate that a live performance is effectively guaranteed by any band with a peculiar name. Suffice to say, the bar is set high by a group that took theirs from a Studio Ghibli movie and the noise Japanese raccoon dogs make as they beat their stomachs in the night time.
And in this case Pom Poko is more than capable of delivering the goods as they take to the stage in Whelan’s upstairs. Without a single word uttered the Norwegian four-piece launch into their set with a clanging march that harks back to the ominous No Wave pioneers Teenage Jesus and the Jerks.
Within a few moments however, they have taken a hard left, which is formally declared as vocalist Ragnhild bellows: “it’s the hazy Heisei raccoon dog war.” Lacing into Theme #1 from their debut album ‘Birthday’, the ensuing wash of jacked up ’60s psychedelia and spiralling math rock melodies immediately has you hooked.
Even for those who have already fallen head over heels with their colourful collages of agitated melodies, the ability to anticipate what happens next lessens none of the thrills that come as My Blood or Crazy Energy Night pan out before you. At the same time, raucous and all that they are from the get-go, the show only hits its stride at the twenty minute mark as they lash into Day Tripping, an anarchic, spiritual companion to the Beatles’ tune of the same name.
At this point, Ragnhild’s frantic jumping about is no longer simply a compelling spectacle, but an infectious action as half the crowd of dudes attempt to imitate her. Whether absolutely motionless, staring fixatedly off into the distance, cascading about the small stage or pounding the life out of a cowbell, her presence is nothing short of hypnotic. Almost motionless to her left is guitarist Martin, who flits masterfully between West African and old school garage riffs or punishingly high-pitched licks that could rival the likes of Arto Lindsay or Glenn Branca.
For 50 minutes they continue this joyful onslaught of pushing the decibel levels and genre hopping in so fluid a manner as to appear improvised. In the studio, Pom Poko succeeded in capturing the energy of a live performance. However, their live shows are on another level entirely.
This is no mean feat considering they are not even close to their second year in existence. A magnificent controlled demolition of an Irish debut is what this was. Once they return, secure a ticket. They will excite you. There will be cowbell. Your ears will hurt, but it won’t matter, because you’ll be on your feet for the raccoon dog war.