It’s very rare for me to see a band twice on the same tour (the last time was 1981 when I saw the Grateful Dead) but having seen the Wild Ponies in Birmingham there was no way I was going to miss their gig at The Vic in Menai Bridge, only half an hour from where I live. It was also the last date of their current UK tour which started in Ipswich, took them to Birmingham, Scarborough, a few places in between and the penultimate date was in Edinburgh.
In terms of America that is not a great distance but it does seem that unless the gig is on the doorstep then most people in the UK won’t go, but if you weren’t there you definitely missed something special.
Wild Ponies are essentially Doug and Telisha Williams, although on this tour they were supported by Kelly Marie on mandolin and drums and they were here to promote their latest album Galax, which is named after the town in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains where Doug Williams’ grandfather had his farm.
From the outset Doug declares their intent which is that the first half is acoustic and after a break for beer it would get loud and weird…..which is how it had been in Birmingham but somehow the Vic suited them better for the second half.
In many respects the Kitchen Garden in Birmingham suits an acoustic band whereas the Vic allowed them to show off their loud and weird side a little bit more, although just as in Birmingham they showed that intent before the end of the acoustic set as Kelly Marie suddenly switched from mandolin to Fender Stratocaster and is if by magic, drums.
It was definitely a set of two halves and in some respect I was reminded of Neil Young who can produce an album like Harvest and then he gets together with Crazy Horse and it is all grunge, guitars and reverb and certainly Doug seemed to relish getting everything he could out of his Fender Strat.
Sometimes when you see a big band they seem to be going through the motions but all three of the band were obviously enjoying themselves and more importantly it was music from the heart, which is what country is about.
Here in the UK you often hear people say I don’t like country and usually when they say that they are thinking of Kenny Rogers, Don Williams or Tammy Wynette but the Wild Ponies who are clearly from the heart of country, hailing from Nashville blow away any misconception you might have of that genre.
Most of the songs are from the last two albums( they have done three) and I would certainly recommend that you try and get to hear them.
It’s hard to pick out any particular track in particular but you can’t help but remember ‘Unplug the Machine’ which definitely has some similarities to Billy Joel’s ‘ We didn’t start the fire’ and that can’t be a bad comparison, although the version live was electric.
All I can say is come back soon guys, you’ve got at least one new fan and when you do make sure you come to Llandudno to try some beer from the Wild Horse Brewery……a fitting beer for a band called the Wild Ponies!