Friday night’s Mates of State show at Le Poisson Rouge was the first time I'd seen them in six years or so, and the first time I was at a sold out show of theirs. A few things about their set up and sound have changed, but Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel are still cute as ever, still constantly looking to each other to give cues, and still looking like they’re continuously sharing an inside joke that no one else could understand. They have two musicians joining them, but it’s also still clearly the two of them, team boo. The multi-instrumentalist in the back looked like their biggest fan, mouthing all the words to every song and getting down like no one else. He also added some cool trumpet parts and extra synth layers. The guitarist on the other side of the stage also filled out the songs more, while keeping it subtle. The sound was actually so good, it actually felt like a little bit of their earlier lo-fi magic was gone. Kori’s organ seemed like it had lost the myriad of analog voices that she used to play when it was just her and Jason, and now the sound was more homogenized. Not that I’m trying to hate on what they’re doing, since that is always the natural progression of things – going from dive bars to selling out a bigger venue with a state of the art soundsystem is what every band aspires to, as they should. But still, there’s something about those dive bars where a clunky analog organ sounds like it might short out the power at any moment that any indie music fan has a certain nostalgia for.
The best thing about the show for me was the set list. They came on strong right away with “For the Actor” right into “My Only Offer.” They played several choice cuts from Team Boo, plus a brand new song (the song they were just starting to record?), and ended on “Palomino,” which they morphed into the chorus of Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know” before waving to the crowd and heading off stage. Speaking of the crowd, this was also one of the more fun audiences to be in. A quick glance around revealed most people scream singing along and jamming out to every song. After the last song, the sold out venue echoed with chants of “Mates of State!” until the band came back for the encore. At this point, I was beginning to think that the show had been fun enough that it would be ok if they didn’t play the one song that I wanted to hear, the song that got me into Mates of State in the first place. But, being the cool couple they are, they must have known that there would be fans who loved their first album, My Solo Project, and boom, the last song of the night was “Proofs.” That was the real deal maker.
Mates of State have several dates left of their tour that ends in Connecticut – see all dates on their tour page. You can also bond with Kori through her blog, give the band a like on Facebook, and blow up their Twitter.