In this digital age, artists achieve their big breaks via the internet as often as through more conventional means. Such is the case with Pomplamoose, the indie duo consisting of Nataly Dawn and Jack Conte, who rose to relevance thanks to their impeccably edited YouTube covers of artists such as Michael Jackson, Beyoncé and Lady Gaga. Cyberspace has a way of breaking down the barrier between musicians and their fans. Pomplamoose’s basement videos feature a blend of cutesiness and all manner of instrumentation (including a toy piano) with many close shots of Nataly behind the mic, her saucer eyes establishing an intimacy with the viewer.

So I jumped at the chance to break down another barrier and see Pomplamoose live in the intimate confines of the Doug Fir Lounge. The venue welcomes guests with a contrast of warm and cool lighting along with a glowing tiled walkway by the bar that one could imagine the late King of Pop moonwalking across. With the log cabin walls and the low ceiling the venue exudes the coziness of a rec room.

The opening act, Portland duo Louis and Genevieve, emerged with Genevieve sporting a helmet fitted with a hazard light and speaker. She wandered the stage holding the microphone to the speaker, generating an eerie reverb effect. When she removed the makeshift helmet and took to the mic she quipped, “Hey what’s up, we’re Pomplamoose. I’ve been waiting all tour to say that.” Tongue in cheek as she may have been, she wasn’t that far off, given that Pomplamoose joined the duo for one of their own YouTube music videos and that Genevieve would later take the stage as one of Pomplamoose’s backup singers. But first Louis and Genevieve threw down industrial pop that got the place moving and after a short set featuring impressive lighting, the crowd gave the band an ovation usually not reserved to opening acts.

With the stage appropriately warmed up, Dawn and Conte, along with their full band and backup singers, emerged during an extended drum solo. They launched into one of their better known covers, a lively version of Lady Gaga’s “Telephone.” Pomplamoose’s yin and yang dynamic was addictive, with Dawn center stage as the stoic vocalist and bassist and Conte as unbridled kinetic energy, standing while he slammed the keys or banged a cymbal, mouth hung open like Michael Jordan soaring for a dunk. On several occasions, he literally bounced against the wall.

Heading into the night, I’d been concerned about Pomplamoose’s ability to put on an engaging live show. Youtube covers are one thing; I wasn’t so sure about their original material. But Dawn’s frequent banter (organic and deadpan as hell) instantly proved Pomplamoose is made for the stage. As they charged through their original material, Dawn seemed to make eye contact with everyone present, as though the Doug Fir was a room of her 300 closest friends. As Conte rotated among instruments and Nataly found moments to dance alongside him, it became clear that Pomplamoose has more fun than anyone. This is, after all, a band with the cleverness to sell grapefruit-scented bath soap at their merchandise table (“Pomplamoose” being a phonetic spelling of the French word for that particular fruit). And few other bands could pull off a doo-wop ditty titled “Bust Your Kneecaps.”

After one of their most notable covers, a sugary sweet version of the Chordettes ’50s classic “Mr. Sandman,” Dawn introduced a song called “Things We Like in Hats,” a three second fury of lights, music, and the whole band singing that line twice. With the audience piping up frequently in these light-hearted moments, the downtime between songs almost consisted of audience participation, the obligatory call for “Freebird” even managing to generate non-ironic chuckles.

The backup band left the stage for several songs as Conte and Dawn slowed things down briefly, before being rejoined by their friends onstage for one last cover, Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies.” As I filtered toward the back during an energetic encore to position myself for my customary quick exit, I was struck how Pomplamoose’s charm may not translate should they ever truly hit it big and play in larger venues. But for a band who rose from Youtube hits to putting on a live show that produced perhaps more good vibrations than I’ve ever witnessed at a concert, I wouldn’t put it past them.

Pomplamoose Setlist Doug Fir Lounge, Portland, OR, USA 2011

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