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Matson on Music

Music news, concert reviews, analysis and opinion by music writer Andrew Matson.

February 1, 2012 at 3:11 PM

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Concert review: Pollens' trance party at Neumos

Photo by me

It was a "curtain show" at Neumos Tuesday night for nascent, local buzz band Pollens.

That means a red fuzzy cloth hung from the ceiling, cutting the floor capacity by a little under half, allowing about 200 people to feel like they filled the 650-person Capitol Hill club.

If the show had been at the 200-person space underneath the stage that Neumos says it will be opening later this year, it would have been a sweaty dance party. Instead, it was a mild affair with pockets of excitement, especially up front.

Trance is Pollens' strong suit. The clean, unique sound of its drones intensified to climaxes that sometimes came too soon, and begged the question: If you can do it so well, why stop? The best parts were when three female voices wove a pattern with drums, guitar and up to three synthesizers, establishing a thick layer of throbbing sound for extended periods of time. That was distinctive. The rest of time, the group sounded exactly like Dirty Projectors or Akron/Family.

The show was technically great, with deep bass notes that mattered when they hit, and careful, multipart singing that didn't sound like English at first because the words were more about being musical than intelligible.

Songs were culled from an EP recorded in part by Morgan Henderson of Fleet Foxes, and an album that came out at the end of 2011, "Brighten and Break." The music is available at, and hasn't quite filtered through the city yet, as Pollens is still gathering a core audience.

The band's recorded music is derivative enough that something special had to occur in concert for it to stand out, and that didn't quite happen at Neumos. The audience close to the stage, where the dancing should have been captured for a music video, probably would have strongly disagreed. But on the periphery people were less engaged, and patrons by the bar seemed to not care about the music at all, talking loudly over the whole thing.

Still, it was nice to see Seattle check out a band with almost no reputation. If Pollens stays exactly as it is, it still has enough pristine dazzle to take it far in this city. The enthused group in the front row suggested a potential crossover into the jam band community: dazed women with big smiles, happily lost in major-chord layers and overlapping voices.

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