As I strolled up to the 9:30 club in a seedier part of D.C. (who knew?), I saw two small lines forming; I checked my iPhone and was surprised. It was 6:16 p.m., on the eve of a sold out Mutemath show and the line was no bigger than 20 people. I was bewildered, yet elated, because I knew I could secure a good spot. I soon found out that the other, smaller line was the VIP line – people who shelled out $15 extra for a chance to meet the band, get in early, and secure some coveted 9:30 cupcakes. Initially, I was a little peeved that they got to get in first, but it hardly mattered. I had all the space in the world to choose from, so my girlfriend and I took a spot upstairs on the balcony.
The 9:30 club is my favorite venue by far. It’s intimate, simple and even has its own brand of charm. The quality of sound and shows are phenomenal; I’ve never had a dangerous or crappy show in my many concert-goings here (something I can’t say for other venues … ). So, 45 minutes later, at 8 p.m. on the dot, the opening band Canon Blue came on. I was unsure at first; it was loud and their brand of music was very atmospheric and layered. This, of course, made for a rather unpleasant first 5 minutes because you couldn’t hear the individual instruments, nor the singer’s voice. The second song changed to a different dynamic and the sound was fixed — whether by the sound engineer or the band, I couldn’t tell — and I was immediately impressed.
Canon Blue is classified as folktronica on Wikipedia, but it’s hard to define them without drawing comparisons to Mutemath. A safe comparison would be a cross between Mutemath and Coldplay; the electronica and vocals from Mutemath meet the upbeat, catchiness of Coldplay. They unfortunately only played a short set that lasted roughly 30 minutes. The crowd was generous with applause, but you could tell they couldn’t get into it. Their last song “Chicago” was a funky, electronic-driven piece that sealed the deal. I bought the CD on the way out.
Generally, if you go to a club to see your favorite band (or really anywhere that plays live music for that matter), you can expect to not see them on time. The venue says doors at 7 p.m.; they open at 7:17. The venue said Canon Blue comes on at 8 p.m.; they did. Nice surprise. Cleanup crew comes out, stage crew gets Mutemath’s gear set up and set to go in a blindingly fast 30 minutes (unprecedented in the music world); Mutemath comes out 15 minutes later. I expected to wait until at least 9:30 p.m. Mutemath comes rolling out in true, New Orleans, classy fashion at 9:15 p.m.
The band was in a straight line formation, comparable to a marching band, book-ended by two roadies carrying a laundry line draped with Christmas lights. It was a fantastic and jaw-dropping start of the show; everyone paused and followed the band as they played their respective, wireless instruments through the crowd to the stage. They got set up and pounded out the first song. The crowd replied with thunderous applause. The rest of the show was utterly amazing. The band was generous and played their entire newest album, Odd Soul, as well as a wealth of favorites, including, “Typical” for the encore, “Chaos,” “You Are Mine,” “The Clipping” and dozens more. The show lasted a full 2 hours and everyone still didn’t want to leave after the house lights came on. Mutemath provided a welcoming experience and even jammed extensively on some of the older songs to keep them fresh in the audience’s mind. Stage presence was also key, with non-stop dancing and crowd-surfing by lead singer Paul Meany, and a killer performance by drummer Darren King.
From crowd-surfing, mesmerizing light-show, air mattresses, beautiful white confetti, the bob and groove of your head and toes to the beat of Mutemath, to the band playing amidst the crowd itself, Mutemath set concert standards high. It’s refreshing to see a band care so much about their fans that they go above and beyond with their lights, sound and stage personality. The show was heavily rehearsed, and frankly, was the best I have ever seen. Mutemath has proudly earned a space in my personal “favorite bands” canon just because their live show changed my expectations for future concerts. Mutemath is a crew chalk full of good people and musicians, and have rightfully sold out shows night after night; the real question is, why haven’t you seen them yet?