It’s difficult to relay a concert by Mute Math without resorting to onomatopoeia: Smash! Boom! Crash! Oh!
The quartet from New Orleans has gained its audience mostly on the backs of its live performances – which by no means belittles its creative output. Mute Math knows how to deliver it.
And that delivery is instant – one look at how these guys crawl, flip and fly all over the stage and the energy can’t help but be felt. The near-capacity crowd at Fort Lauderdale’s Revolution was absorbing it, and throwing it back just as much.
The boys in Mute Math are crowd-pleasers – they didn’t force the audience to wait for their most recognizable song, they came right out and cranked “Typical” after opening with the percussive instrumental “Collapse”.
(Apologies for the photos: They’re off a cell phone…)
Suitably enthused, the audience embraced Mute Math from there – not that there was any doubt from the word go. There are few bands that exhibit Mute Math’s kind of energy, both in its songs and in its stage work.
In both cases, the energy emanates from drummer Darren King, a frenetic sticksman who set the show’s pace at the very start: After putting on his headphones, he literally strapped them on by wrapping them around his head in gaffer’s tape.
Mute Math doesn’t back away from King’s important role. His kit is placed at the front of the stage, and many of the songs seem to be built with his strong work in mind. King is a showman the way few drummers have even dreamt, at times flying over his kit to play cymbals or even climbing onto keyboardist/lead singer Paul Meany’s well-worn Rhodes with bass drum in hand to get the crowd even more riled.
In turn, though, the rest of the band doesn’t suffer in King’s presence. Meany is a very strong frontman who doesn’t have “lead-singer disease” – he’s affable and fun, but he shares the spotlight with his other bandmates. Roy Mitchell-Cardenas not only was a very solid bassist, he helped out with drumming and even took center stage with, of all things, a double-bass solo on “Stare At The Sun”. Guitarist Greg Hill is the band’s soundmaster – attacking an assortment of pedals and keyboards in a way that rivals Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood; if Hill gains Greenwood’s experience there, he could lay down some serious sonic tableaus.
You’d think that by comparison, opening band (in sequence only) Eisley – with their haunting, sister-driven harmonies and more subtle approach – would suffer. But for at least some members of the crowd, I’ll bet an Eisley song pops into their head a day or two from now.
It’s because no one quite sings the way the sisters DuPree do – recalling Fleetwood Mac at its height (singing Christine McVie’s songs – check out “Ten Cent Blues” for a real strong comparison), but with those well-placed harmonies throughout. Sometimes, the Tyler, Texas quintet can come out sounding downright eerie, proving they were an excellent choice to sing the theme song to The Invasion, even if the movie was an utter bomb.
Having seen them twice, the only real problem I’ve encountered is that they really haven’t played in front of their own kind of crowd – in both cases they opened for a high-energy band: Hot Hot Heat, then Mute Math. Not to say the crowds in both cases couldn’t embrace Eisley’s subtleties and gorgeous songwriting, but more likely they simply weren’t in the mood to do it. Maybe a bill with Fountains of Wayne, Crowded House or even Eels would be a better fit.