When I finally arrived, the young crowd stood gathered around the stage, soaking up Search Parties, a six-piece, which featured a beautiful female violinist, a hefty, mustachioed guitarist/lead-singer, a Sean Penn-proportioned guitar player, a bassist rocking dreads, a perfectly normal drummer and a synth/trumpet player, who, by all accounts, appeared also normal.
Search Parties held the house in rapt attention with a deluge of warm harmonies, strings, strong, catchy "oh, oh, oh" interludes, and well-delivered vocals. I hope to catch more of Search Parties in the future. Their set made me regret locking the goddamn keys away even more than the original hassle it caused did. Check the Search Parties out on BandCamp to hear more.
I blundered onto Off Brodway's smoking porch to further appraise the crowd, as well as indulge in a square myself before mewithoutYou started. The crowd featured all types: chubby, flannel-wearing women, emo-kids with "undercuts," buzz-headed androgynous types, girl-next-doors sporting flowered dresses and yellow galoshes, religio-hipsters spouting-off about how "mewithouYou is a Christian band," and a few random townie types washed ashore at Off Broadway's bar, seeking basic necessity, or what they assumed would be quality music. They weren't wrong.
mewithouYou's drummer, Rickie Mazzotta, appeared on stage first, stretching his arms and arranging his kit. Guitarist Michael Weiss followed and joked inaudibly with Mazzotta, who kept pushing a stringy, lone-patch of hair atop his balding head out of his eyes. Soon, a bassist, another guitarist and lead-singer/multi-instrumentalist, Aaron Weiss, clad in a blue beanie, joined the pair.
The crowd cheered as Aaron smiled an awkward, nerdy smile and tested his dual microphone configuration. He checked the effected microphone against the clean one, swapping the two to opposite positions. I looked on astonished by the quietly contemplative look he wore as he worked. I knew the man before me owned the voice and energy heard and felt on mewithouYou's records, but wouldn't believe it if I didn't.
I stood on the left side of the stage near a flock of short girls with curled hair and bawdy, highlighted extensions. Having nearly a foot on them afforded me an excellent sight line, as "Disaster Tourism," from 2004's "Catch for Us the Foxes," kicked-off mewithouYou's set. Michael Weiss's snaking guitar part set a brooding bed before Aaron began the evening's incantations, "Call me outside, I'll come running down…."
"Fox's Dream of the Log Flume" from 2012's "Ten Stories" followed, and warmed the crowd like a train car on fire. Hands flew in the air as the song's drops and revelations danced in the crowd's ears, propelling them into motion like a well-oiled machine springing to life. Aaron switched between his distorted microphone and the clean one, emphasizing the song's various aesthetic moves and verbal highlights. The kids previously bantering about mewithouYou's exclusive association with Jesus shouted along with Aaron as he sang, "There is definitely a god," which sent a vindictive tingle down my spine, as I too shouted along, despite fearing these particular fans might actually believe (get it?) mewithouYou push a specifically Christian agenda. Did they not hear Aaron say "a god"?
Throughout the night, mewithouYou jumped between fan-favorites from their back catalog and cuts from the band's newest outing, "Ten Stories." It felt as if the crowd favored the band's newer tracks, flicking on and off like blinking Christmas lights as the newer songs rotated in and out. I found this interesting, aware of the fan-outcry, bullshittery and troll-logic surrounding mewithouYou's aesthetic and lineup changes. Perhaps I was adrift in a third or fourth wave of mewithouYou fans, fans that embrace mewithouYou's evolution, whatever its direction.
During "Elephant in the Dock," the audience screamed along with Aaron, "Hang the elephant, the elephant must hang," as the elephant in Aaron's narrative found himself in a very bad situation.
As the rest of the mewithouYou churned through an extended outro before catapulting into the Godzilla-stomp of "Silencer" from 2002's "A to B Life," Aaron wiped his head with a towel and replaced his blue beanie, as if in respect to something above.
"A Stick, a Carrot and String" jangled and contrasted with "Silencer"; "February, 1878" combined mewithouYou's new and old work with excellence; while "O, Porcupine" featured an extended silence in the song's middle, one the audience didn't disturb, before Aaron broke in with a twisted whisper, "Listen to it…."
mewithouYou closed its set with "Bear's Vision of St. Agnes" and "The Soviet." The house stomped and clapped wildly as Mazzotta strode barefoot to his drums and crashed into "My Exit, Unfair," the band again lifting their instruments and taking positions for a few more. "Aubergine," "All Circles" and "The Fox, the Crow and the Cookie" (played solo on acoustic by Aaron) completed mewithouYou's encore.
As I walked the cold, I felt a bit incomplete having not heard "Cattail Down," "Paper-Hanger" or "Messes of Men," but it didn't matter. mewithouYou played a polarized set, a set focused on the extreme ends of their catalog. Just as "All Circles" postulated, the end had literally become the beginning. And just as beginnings and endings in life, the evening's musical contrast was stark and staggering, but natural, and ironically, essentially no different from where mewithouYou began.