Live review: Mates of State, Generationals @ the Bluebird TheaterBy Cassandra Schoon | November 14th, 2011 | No Comments »
Fans of Mates of State are often described as “devoted” and “adoring.” But after last night’s show at the Bluebird, I’d like to add another descriptor: “quiet.” Despite frenetic dancing during each poppy, hook-filled song, and the few seconds of enthusiastic applause that would follow, the crowd resumed an eerie, expectant silence during each break. Even Jason Hammel noted the strange pattern, asking the audience, “What are you guys talking about? I can hear you whispering.” The manic energy between the fever-pitch of the music and oddly muted breaks made for a disorienting, but entertaining show.
Local openers Shaky Molars began the evening with songs that, taken together, sound like an indie-rock opera about Denver hipsters in love. Their self-described “flirty pop” has a ways to go, but the bones are good, and I look forward to seeing what they do with it.
Generationals were up next, bringing their uniquely Gulf-Coast-tinged take on “Pet Sounds”-era Beach Boys. After hearing them in the cramped Hi-Dive at UMS this year, it was great to hear them stretch their sound out in the larger venue.
Mates of State began their proceedings with “Get Better,” the duo rounded out by the most enthusiastic trumpet/tambourine player I’ve ever seen and a guitarist/ukelele player. Both bring new depth and a countermeasure to the duo’s Splenda-sweet pop sound. Without the new additions, their new ballad “Unless I’m Led” might have sounded like the musings of a Tori-Amos-addled teenager instead of a reflection on adult life, and up-tempo tunes like “The Re-Arranger” would not have expanded into venue-filling anthems.
Fanciful, grade-school-play stage decorations and recent appearances on “Yo Gabba Gabba” notwithstanding, Mates of State have matured greatly in the years since “Bring it Back.” Touring in support of the new album, “Mountaintops,” the band exhibited a grown-up pop aesthetic and a more straightforward lyrical sensibility. But for the encore, when Kori Gardner asked the audience whether they wanted to hear old songs or new songs, the consensus was clear; the band launched into “My Only Offer,” and tied up the night with “Palomino” (from the new album). Though old favorites are obviously still crowd pleasers, it will only be a matter of time before selections from “Mountaintops” become encore-worthy as well.
Cassandra Schoon is a Denver freelance writer and regular Reverb contributor.