If you are a fan of punk rock, jamgrass, gypsy-pop or any combination of those, you’ll love the band slated to perform Thursday (July 29) at George’s Majestic Lounge in Fayetteville and Friday (July 30) at Chelsea’s in Eureka Springs.
Ponder The Albatross, formed in Denver in 2015, has just started touring and performing again post-pandemic and is “beyond excited” to return to the stage, says founder and frontman Josh Bower (lead vocals, mandolin, guitar). Bower lived in Denver during the early years of Ponder and now lives in Eureka Springs again. His four-piece band plays a lively, rock-rhythm combination of jamgrass, punk rock and folk rock with a lot of gypsy flavor throughout.
Audience members can expect a rollicking fun set, Bower says. Ponder The Albatross is not big on using set lists but is big on playing to the crowd and making sure everyone in the room has a blast: “We’re that band that can get pretty wild and jump up on tables during a song, and we love getting the crowd to light up.”
Ponder’s set list isn’t entirely a mystery: you’ll hear some jamgrassy takes on Bower’s favorite tracks by Queens of the Stone Age, Ween, and Devil Makes Three, as well as plenty of Ponder originals – tunes that mix gypsy attitude, bluegrass instruments, and minor chords with driving rock-style rhythms from drummer Adam Chiszar of Lyons, Colorado, and bassist Eric Vrtis of Oglesby, Illinois. Both have heavy rock backgrounds: Chiszar in metal and Vrtis in the jamband scene. Bower also started his music career playing more straightforward, gritty hard rock, but learning the mandolin about eight years ago “infused my music with the soul of the Mountains,” he says. Adding a traditional bluegrass background and classical training to Ponder’s sound is fiddler Augustus Rutherford of Fort Collins, Colorado.
In the year leading up to the pandemic, Ponder had watched its name climbing higher up the festival marquees in smaller cities from the Rockies to the Everglades, as well as opening for national touring acts like MarchFourth, Shawn James, and Squirrel Nut Zippers at established Front Range venues like Cervantes’ Other Side in Denver and Aggie Theatre and Washington’s in Fort Collins. (“Being a band that breaks labels and blows through genre limitations means we fit everywhere but also nowhere,” Bower explains. Which makes getting booked at bigger venues more challenging.)
Bower’s favorite of all Ponder’s performances thus far? “Oh, that’s easy! It was a headlining slot at the 2019 Mountain Fair festival in Carbondale, Colorado,” Bower says. “We’d been trying to get booked at that fest for years with zero luck, and then the talent buyer heard us in a local radio studio and booked us almost immediately, and in the headliner time slot. It was incredible!” The event draws about 20,000 people annually, and performing there felt like a “dream come true” for Bower, who went to high school in Carbondale and cut his “musician teeth” on the stage of the town’s storied downtown dive-bar, The Black Nugget.
“After all that growth and work from 2015 through late 2019, playing more mountain towns and more ski towns from Snowmass and Breckenridge to venues in New Mexico and Arizona, and playing SXSW in Austin, and booking a Northeast tour and new venues and festivals around the country for 2020, we were coming into 2020 thinking it was gonna be a great year for Ponder,” Bower recalled. “But of course, the pandemic changed all that. So yeah – we are super excited about getting back on stage and on the road. It’s gonna be wild!”
The Thursday show at George’s in Fayetteville includes four bands; Ponder The Albatross will play next to last. Also featured are Key & Al, Dirty Seconds, and Bootleg Royale closing the evening. Music starts at 8 p.m. Ages 18 and up; admission is $10-$12.
Ponder The Albatross will get to play two full sets (and then some) on Friday night as the only band performing at Chelsea’s. Admission is $5, ages 21 and up. Music starts at 9 p.m.