Sam Cromack’s solo project My Own Pet Radio treated his hometown fans to a night of his own self-described “sonic stimulation”. If the name is tickling your brain you might recognize the name better as the front man of Ball Park Music. Originally intended as a recording project, My Own Pet Radio has expanded into a wave of sweet sounds over three studio albums. His latest 2015 LP Goodlum was released earlier in September.
A solo project as audibly satiating as My Own Pet Radio has a tall order to fill when it comes to choosing a tour band. It can be difficult to take something fueled by such an introspective creative force then materialize it in the form of living organisms called band members. Cromack described the tour as a chance to be with “the dream band”.
Cromack puts his prized project in the hands of only his most trusted brothers. Best friend Ben Fahey took charge of guitar and keys, while another pal and the mixer for Goodlum, Alex L’Estrange, jammed on the bass. But there was another position to fill and so Cromack bagged Holy Holy’s drummer Ryan Strathie to complete the dream team.
With Black Bear Lodge as the place and the dream team as the motion, My Own Pet Radio had set up for an eclectic night. Cromack’s tracks are a diverse repertoire of indie pop, indie rock and a flash of synth and electronica. For example, No Great Mystery; though a still a sweet and catchy tune about who we try to be, the track is nothing like his older track Altamont Speedway that relies heavily on synths and remixing. Never Ending Wave too sinks its teeth into some great manipulation and effects thanks to Fahey on the keys. The title track of the latest album, Goodlum has even more spacey tunes but seems to be brought alive with Strathie’s drumming.
The way the band structures and layers L’Estrange’s bass, Strathie’s rolling drums and Fahey’s synthy keys in between Cromack’s voice isn’t the same mathematical’ bars and equations’ of most rock bands. The easy-looking, almost free styling nature of the band playing a song seems to throb and sigh as if there really is a living, breathing creature on the stage. Something like an exotic animal in a zoo padding around and occasionally thrashing at the bars while everyone dances or leans against the wall trying to look cool.
Just to keep with the trend of walking to his own beat Cromack did the encore a little differently too. Waiting just a little longer to finish a beer in the corridor, then coming out after much of the crowd had left the band played one more tune before Cromack had the stage to himself. In a way it sorted out the true fans from the onlookers, or possibly it was just the people who got another drink who were lucky.
Perhaps Cromack was lonely on stage or maybe he caught a glint in Jennifer Boyce’s eye but he invited the fellow Ball Park Music performer up to sing with him before the night was done and the house lights went back up.