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REVIEW: Mates of State: live in Montreal, 24/09/03
9.29.2003 by Sean

On September 24th, Sean Michaels sat doe-eyed for an assault by organ-drums duo The Mates of State, on their much-anticipated visit to Montreal's Petit Cafe Campus.

When the crowd roared its approval after the Mates of States' first song, it was a strange animal response to music that seemed completely separate from sweat and smoke and real, hoarse human voices. Kori Gardner and Jason Hammell's vocals wind, weave and soar in a clean-and-shiny way, like a second refurbished organ beside the one Gardner plays. When Hammell smiled at the audience (clean-and-shiny teeth) and said that the duo was thinking of moving to Montreal, a few vintage-T-clad kids barked back "Yes!!!" like angry school-marms. What brought on these fierce responses from the crowd? The Mates of State are basically a pop duo - how are they anything one can feel so adamant, ferocious and rock-and-roll about?

The openers probably had something to do with it. Hometown lovelies The Diskettes continue to play some of the most wafting, light-and-luscious pop that I've ever heard. Emily Beliveau's voice is a yellow bird that smiles, serenades and shakes maracas, while David Barclay's pitch-perfect harmonies hail from a bossanova heaven. Next to The Diskettes, the Mates of States sounded downright hardcore.

More important still for the purpose of this distended explanation, directly before the M.o.S. set we heard from Montreal's scenesters-par-excellence, One Candle Power. Their silken-voiced emo never failed to fail to surprise; if they do one thing, it's play vigorously (this remained true during their straight-faced song about Asterix and Obelix). In the wake of O.C.P.'s emo dynamo, the Mates of States' own angst retained an illusory punk aura. Jason Hammell's drums slammed out fiercer and crisper than anything that had preceded them, and the pair went through some suitably straining I'm-unhappy-and-alone-and-angry acrobatics: lest you forget, they're signed to Polyvinyl. For all the emo trappings, however, there was still too much bubblegum Wednesday night to justify the crowd's feral reaction. Gardner was wearing a little girl's dress, Hammell looked like Tobey Maguire. No matter how 'emotional,' no matter how rock'n'roll the music on stage, it always retained a Ben Folds good-naturedness. Never One Candle Power's misery or fury - just hard-hit drums and those knitted vocals. The Mates of State drew heavily on their new record, Team Boo, and introduced a guest Montrealer on trumpet for the concert's high-point - two bars of trumpet in the middle of a pretty, Belle & Sebastian-style number. Finally, there, the Mates of State picked up that secret thing that the rest of the show so lacked: a catchy melody. All the emo/pop ping-pong would be forgiven for a song we could sing along to... even for only two bars.

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