Red Pony Clock 9/8/11 @ The Hemlock

Last Thursday at the Hemlock, Elephant Sixers the Ladybug Transistor made magic and even helped to reunite some long lost family members. Oxnard’s finest, Sea Lions, and San Diego’s experimental tropicalists Red Pony Clock realized that evening some of their members were, in fact, cousins. “The Mexicans of indie rock,” Gabe Saucedo of RPC joked, “it’s just us and them.”

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Sea Lions opened and performed their jangly and melodic pop, fronted by guitarist and singer Adrain Pillado and his baritone ballads. The band is touring extensively this fall to lead up to their November full-length release on Slumberland Records, and have added a third guitarist as well as a tambourine player to their roster of nerdy yet loveable band members. They have come a long way since their SF debut earlier this year, sounding tighter with a bigger and more lush sound.

Red Pony Clock is a whole other beast. Largely the work of mustachioed mastermind Gabe Saucedo, RPC is more of a collective than a band proper, with a rotating cast of a dozen or so members who play an exuberant sun-baked blend of calypso and salsa – think Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass meats Zoobilee Zoo (or some other kids show that was clearly conceived of while on acid).

Love it or hate it, they are completely original in that no one else is doing what they do, and they are very careful not to cross that irony line which would lump them into the kitsch rock category. They are authentic, and while having fun and maintaining a sense of humor, they are not a joke. And people love them. The whole crowd was just as pumped as the band was, and their song “Hayward Girls” sent the, uh, Hayward girls into a fit of frenzy – an entertaining set to say the least.

The Ladybug Transistor however, while less buoyant, was no less captivating and maintained the light vibe with a little humor and banter with the crowd. When someone asked where in Brooklyn the band is from, Gary Olson replied, “We’re from Victorian Flatbush,” and after a pause he added with a chuckle, “There’s a big steampunk scene there.” Performing mostly newer material from this years’ Clutching Stems LP as well as some early aughts selections, Olson and his band appeased the audience with older material, much to our delight.

In 1999, Ladybug Transistor honed in on their sound and brought us the lovely chamber pop revivalist masterpiece The Albermarle Sound – of which the band played a few selections from, including “Like a Summer Rain,” “Today Knows,” and “Oceans in the Hall.” They even played arguably the best song from the 1997 Beverly Atonale (and precursor to the sound they would perfect for The Albermarle Sound), “Rushes of Pure Spring.” Midway through the set, one gutsy fan shouted a request for “Meadowport Arch,” and the band quickly obliged. The whole set was sublime and sent this reviewer back to her overly enthusiastic and adolescent naivete, to the days when music was religious. It’s nice to know that even though we become jaded with age, experiences like this performance can be humbling, if only for a night.