Fitzgerald’s July 2, 2015
The folks I observed waiting for last Thursday’s concert to begin on Fitz's upstairs stage looked just like the crowd for every mewithoutYou show I’ve attended in the past 11 or 12 years — a bunch of scruffy white indie kids comprised of equal parts post-hardcore, post-punk, and freak-folk aficionados. Sure, a few handfuls of couples looked around my age, all sporting T-shirts they purchased at shows more than a decade ago, but I wasn’t really expecting that much from the night besides an above-average set as the band toured its excellent new record, Pale Horses.
Until the music began, and everything changed.
The assembled throng was hit with a bolt of electricity as Lithuania delivered its raucous brand of punk-inspired power-pop. Over the course of 11 songs, the Philly-based trio spit out gritty hooks through heaps of overdrive as they sang snarky lyrics about being young, dumb, and irresponsible. The songs combined a brash attitude with positive energy and strong rock chops, evincing a mix of Avail, Fifteen, Yuck, Pavement and Bleach-era Nirvana. While tracks like “I Want to Drink Poison,” “Holy Water,” and “Hardcore Friends” were well-received, the set hit its high note when Aaron Weiss of mewithoutYou spontaneously joined the band for a noisy, grungy cover of Neutral Milk Hotel’s “Gardenhead.”
The crowd buzzed with energy and anticipation when mewithoutYou strolled onto the stage. What followed was a career-spanning set full of verve, strength, and aplomb. Or, to put it another way, Weiss and Friends channeled the fervency of a street preacher to whip the crowd into a frenzy that at times resembled the spiritual ecstasy of a tent revival.
Whole swaths of the crowd sang along word for word with the band, while others kept their hands lifted in the air and even more leapt for joy. While the band gave ample time to the standout tracks from its brand-new record (including “Blue Hen,” “Magic Lantern Days” and “Rainbow Signs”), the most enthusiastic performances and responses were reserved for songs like “Leaf,” “Four-Word Letter,” “Aubergine,” “Timothy Hay,” “Bullet to Binary, Part Two” and more.
In fact, the night reached an absolute fever pitch when “January, 1979” kicked off the encore, as both Aaron and Dominic of Lithuania jumped into the crowd to near-rapturous exaltation. And when the night came to a close with “In a Sweater Poorly Knit,” you could feel waves of catharsis sweep across the room.
Part of me wants to apologize for the hyperbole, but this was damn near a transcendent experience. I’ve attended several mewithoutYou shows in the past 12-plus years, and have never seen the band or crowd feed off each other with such passion and intensity.
On top of it all, both acts lamented the absence of Foxing. This St. Louis rock outfit had been the third act on the tour, but they had to bow out earlier in the day after getting robbed of all its gear in Austin the night before. Maybe the bands needed the emotional release, or maybe the crowd needed to kick a three-day weekend off in style, but you would have needed ice water in your veins to not have responded viscerally to this powerful night of music.
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Personal Bias: I’ve championed mewithoutYou since the release of A —> B Life in 2002, personally pushing copies of the record onto fans of outsider rock from the confines of a Christian bookstore in The Woodlands.
The Crowd: Lots of long-term fans. LOTS of them. People knew all the words to all the songs, including the new record that’s barely one month old.
Overheard In the Crowd: “Why are you so nice?!?”, screamed one guy at Aaron Weiss after he expressed sadness over Foxing’s terrible situation.
Random Notebook Dump: Just like at Warehouse Live in June 2014 when mewithoutYou toured the 10th Anniversary of Catch for Us the Foxes, there were some sound issues with the effects-driven microphone that Aaron Weiss uses on certain songs. Which is frustrating, because that mike can deliver some dramatic effect when utilized properly.