States Mating - Another Blind Show.

On a whim I attended the Mates Of State/Black Kids/Judgment Day show at the Oriental Theatre on Wednesday night. I had heard of Mates Of State before, but hadn't listened to their catalog at length. Black Kids had made a couple plays through on our office stereo, so I was at least familiar with their '80s style dance-rock. Judgment Day was a blind, jarring, and incredible surprise, and one that was entirely enjoyable. Imagine a band comprised of three guys; one violin, one cello and drums. And the music they play is metal! Hard, fast, speedy, belligerent, but still melodically complex metal! These are the guys that open the show. And the beauty of it is that their set opens with a calm, soft, symphonic solo. Obviously, the pair is classically trained, and self-taught face-rockers, rockers of face. Their set starts soft, blazes to crescendo after crescendo and then fizzles out in musical embers like the remains of a sonic fireworks display. After 30 minutes of show, the opening band has succeeded at blowing my mind. This will be a good evening.

Black Kids take the stage next. Anyone familiar with the hype-machine's over-blowing of their first LP release may recall the massive nod their way by Pitchfork Media. After a stellar review of their initial EP (8.4/10), through which Pitchfork boosted the band to extremes, completely deviating from their normally reserved/hyper-skeptical stance on new music (especially the poppier stuff), The Black Kids released Partie Traumatic. Pitchfork was so dissatisfied with the full-length debut that it was given a 3.3/10 and no review was even printed, only a picture of two sad puppies with the text, "Sorry :-/". Other media outlets were kinder, awarding A and B-grades along with higher "star" ratings. And the album performed well, rising to #2 in the UK and a respectable 129 in the States (given that indie bands rarely make a mark at all). Knowing all this, I was excited to see if they had the talent to carry a live show. Throughout their hour-long set, they proved themselves energetic, passionate and talented. They didn't mail it in and kept a lively, danceable pace alive for the whole time. Reggie Youngblood's 80s rock voice (think The Cars meets Peter Gabriel) was in fine form, and the lovely ladies on the keys were exceptional. For such a divisive band, they had the audience locked in, and were a perfect primer for Mates Of State.

Having not listened to much Mates Of State, I was intrigued to hear what "twee pop" meant throughout an hour of continuous play. Live. Turns out, they fucking rock. Their songs are largely predicated on simple, repetitious lyrics and driving drum and piano tracks. Familiarity with a band, especially as a headliner with a large back catalogue, can be extremely important to the enjoyment of a live show. And honestly, Mates Of State started this way for me. I initially had a hard time getting into the simple progressions, clattering sound and belted, forceful vocals. Either they settled in or I adjusted, but in either case, they did not disappoint. They rather intensely rock in fact. "Twee" seems to be a misnomer because it lead me to believe they were a squeaky, cutesy, hyper band, and instead they are a pop-rock slamfest. Fast-paced and dancey, but not to the disco degrees touched by Black Kids, Mates Of State kept an audience alive and active on a Wednesday night. Brilliantly, their first encore song was a traditional country-folk duet, followed by two more raucous drum/piano attacks. I wish very much that I knew more about their LPs, and I will be picking them up over the weekend to be certain.

Live shows! Brilliant! I've got to commend Denver for another great evening. The Oriental definitely has better acoustics than the Fillmore, and more charm, more intimacy, better bartenders, cheaper beers, and cooler bands. But don't take my word for it... (Reading Rainbow, anyone?)

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