Show Review: Mates of State with Free Energy and Nick Thune at Great American Music Hall, 7/1/2010

by Gordon Elgart on July 7, 2010

I love it when bands bring a giant banner.

Co-written with Dakin Hardwick

Mates of State brought their “Summer Crushes” tour to Great American Music Hall last week to promote their newest project, a covers album called Crushes. But rather than just show up and play, they brought along a traveling variety show. At the end of the night, though, it was the joyful music of Mates of State that I’m going to remember. So what else was there?

The show was opened by a “juggler” named Lorq Nichols that managed to keep his set mercifully short. He attempted to be both a performance artist and a comic juggler, not succeeding at either of them very well.

Much better was comedian Nick Thune. He did a solid half hour of jokes. Some were better than others, as one would expect from any comic, but her just kep them coming! He held an acoustic guitar throughout must of his set, just strumming along while he was doing his bit. The most interesting and silliest part of the set came when I felt the desire to find out of somebody in the crowd could do a backflip. Sure enough, he found someone. And that person did it! This was followed by an epic imaginary tale of saving a baby’s life by doing a back flip. You kind of had to be there…

Main support was provided by Pennsylvania power pop band Free Energy, who ma ybe best known as the rock band on Astralwerks that were produced by James Murphy. They opened with the classic rock flavored “Light Love,” which is a long, mid-tempo number that shouldn’t have worked as an opening number, but it sounded great. They kicked things to the next level with “Dream City.” This was when I started noticing a pretty vivid divide on the crowd. The people that were into the band were really into the band. And I mean dancing like your are home alone and nobody can see you kind of enthusiasm. Yet the people that couldn’t relate seemed especially bored. I don’t know what they could have done better to get everyone involved, but some people just aren’t open to something new.

They have energy to spare, and will give it to you without charging you.

The band still fed off the energy of the dancers, and they played the room as if there were 20,000 people amped to be seeing them. They even pulled out a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m Going Down” that felt like the band made it entirely their own. They sealed up their 8-song set with a bang, well, the song “Bang Pop,” which was a totally appropriate way to end the set, leaving the audience perfectly sated.  They definitely made some converts during this set, and the band has what it takes to get to the next level.

Finally up was Mates of State, a band that I’ve noticed has fans that truly love them. There’s an energy from crowd to band that’s without peer within the indie rock community. Perhaps this is because the band got their start during turn-of-the-millennium San Francisco and have lasted longer than other bands of that era, or perhaps it’s because the love Jason and Kori show for each other is infectious. What surprised me tonight, though, is how young the crowd seemed to be. Rather than playing to a bunch of aging fans, it looks like Mates of State is catching on with younger fans. These are kids with excellent taste.

This was just about the best set list I’ve seen Mates of State do. It was energetic (it was definitely a ROCK set), filled with fan favorites, interspersed with a few of their new cover songs (but not too many), and played both as a four-piece (accompanied by trumpet and guitar) and with their classic two-piece, eyes-locked-in-smiles arrangement. I managed to snag a photo of a set list, but it didn’t match up all that well with what was actually played. The highlights for me were “Goods,” “My Only Offer,” and the Girls’ cover “Laura.” (Could the covered band have been in the building?)

When this traveling Mates of State carnival hits your town, make sure to go out and see it. You might find yourself faced with an odd juggler at the beginning of the night, but by the end of the night you’ll be all smiles.

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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