mewithoutYou | 03.19.07

live_mewithoutThe songs convey one man's honest attempts to work out his own emotional struggles and grasp the concept of faith and his relationship with God.





Pop's, Sauget, Ill.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Aaron Weiss is that if he were to see the amount of praise given to him in the next few paragraphs, he would immediately redirect it. Few modern artists display such a striking combination of charisma, sensitivity, and honest humility as the quirky, bearded singer of Philadelphia's mewithoutYou. This attitude of genuine interest in those around him showed from the beginning of their Monday night set when, barely into their first smattering of songs, Weiss paused to express genuine sadness at the loss of Aloha, who he described as "increasingly good friends," from the tour. This would appear to be the mantra of the entire evening.

In their defense, Aloha did make decent use of their last night, putting on a solid 30-minute set of rhythmic, almost improv-sounding indie rock…with a vibraphone. Drawing heavily from last year's Some Echoes, they brought an inviting sound that occasionally resembled Mute Math. Though sometimes unstructured, the set always remained pleasant, often focusing on keyboards while moving the guitar to a supporting role, if it had one at all. This ability to create moods rather than just sounds gives them an automatic edge over many of their peers. Kudos to Aloha for understanding that, in good music, the communication of words and sounds is complimentary.

That said, perhaps no band understands this concept as well as mewithoutYou, where every musical sound serves as support for Weiss's singing/screaming/spoken word approach. His lyrics are consistently given the starring role, and deservingly so. Weiss makes use of an unorthodox and strained delivery that often makes him sound both horrifyingly tortured and innately fragile. It is this sincerity that keeps him from getting too close to the line that separates mere mortals from rock idols. While at times sounding like a modern day prophet, ranting and raving in a near stream-of-conscious style, his messages never come across as preaching, condemning, or condescending. Rather, they convey one man's honest attempts to work out his own emotional struggles and grasp the concept of faith and his relationship with God.

Near the beginning of their set, Weiss declared to the crowd that he was really "struggling" because of the depressing Sauget area. "It's all strip clubs and waste dumps and industrial factories," he said. When an audience member responded that he loved strip clubs, Weiss countered, "And that is entirely your prerogative, but I don't. And from what I've seen, they do more harm than good." This moment probably best exemplified the essence of mewithoutYou: sheer conviction.

The set was a nonstop barrage of therapeutic conversation, where the band constantly changed the emotional landscape to match Weiss's verbal ponderings. Drummer Richard Mazzotta's electrocution-like spasms opened the show during "January 1979." The band hit their groove early on with "A Glass Can Only Spill What It Contains." They took on an almost worshipful tone during "Four Word Letter (Pt. 2)" ("God of peace, we want you") and "Tie Me Up! Untie Me!" ("I need more grace than I thought"), which included the fantastic percussion of literal pots and pans. While the entire set was well above average, the true highlights were the chilling "Wolf Am I! (And Shadow)," the three-part "Spider Song," which featured Weiss and an acoustic guitar and served as break points at the start, middle, and end of the set, and the closing "In a Sweater Poorly Knit," a glorious seven-minute ode to joy which featured a trumpet (the official instrument of happiness) and the concluding admission to God that "I do not exist, only You exist." For anyone who appreciates challenging, poetic music with an artistic vision, mewithoutYou delivers on all fronts. Praise God. | Aaron Brummet

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