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Being that I’d seen Mute Math twice before, there was really nothing front man Paul Meany could do to surprise me. I anticipated him jumping over drum sets, falling on top of keyboards and maybe even smashing some light bulbs at the end of the show.
At the Mute Math Show at the Theater of Living Arts on March 14, he proceeded to steal my notebook, somersault over his keyboard and knock it over three times, destroy the drum setup and jump into a row of flashing fluorescent light bulbs. OK, I guess I didn’t think of everything.
The show began with two surprisingly good indie bands. Polyvinyl Records’ Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin opened the show with a pop sound similar to The Shins.
The other opener, The Cinematics, deserve all the blog-hype they’ve received.
Featuring a lead singer with vocal capabilities similar to front man Brandon Flowers of The Killers, added onto a Moving Units and Franz Ferdinand-styled guitar and drum conversation plus Interpol-inspired bass lines, this Scottish band has every element needed for it to make it big in rock.
The stage was set for Mute Math. An oversized light bulb glowed above one of the band’s signature row of fluorescent lights. The show began with Meany’s feathery “I’m Having a Dream In a Movie” keyboard creeping in and establishing tone. Greg Hill’s sonic guitar then became the leading texture, its dramatic sound adding to the build that already surrounded the opening of Mute Math’s first song.
Darren King’s heavy rhythms and cymbal splashes and bassist Roy Mitchell-Cardena’s high hat smacks and upright kick drum thumps completed the static energy opening. The build was somewhat like a faster version of the last three minutes of “[Untitled Track 8]” by Sigur Ros – minus the incredible finish.
A crashing apex faded in sound to set the stage for the arena-ready “Typical,” which is one of Mute Math’s few guitar-centric songs. As soon as the riff began, Paul Meany was on top of his
keyboard; as soon as the drums kicked in, he jumped off it,
introducing the keyboard to the stage floor.
“Plan B” proved to be a stage-friendly track. The live version featured a different bass line than the album (featured in 2004’s “Reset”) that was significantly more groove-based. Instead of a guitar riff leading to the chorus by itself, it was accompanied by drums and
synchronized white lights pulsing around the stage.
“Control,” garnered the best crowd reaction after Meany said, “I’m gonna need your help on this one.” The live version has an extended bridge, and escalated to a fanatical over-the-top ending.
“Break the Same” surpassed all else – and not just because Meany snagged my notebook and wrote in it during its performance. The song already has a predetermined, partially improvisational quality to it, but to experience the song in action creates a sense of awe. It doesn’t hurt that I got high fives from the lead singer and drummer. I guess it’s safe to say they were psyched about the song, too.
Using whatever can create a projectable sound, King drummed on Meany’s keyboard, microphone stand and a feedback speaker, all while Hill fiddled with a wailing pedal effect. Meanwhile, Meany and Mitchell-Cardenas occasionally syncopated the rhythms at King’s drum set.
After King jammed out, he grabbed a drum and placed it on top of the keyboard, while standing on it, and then jumped off – part two of his method of introducing the keyboard to the stage floor. Wide eyes and incredulous feelings later, everyone but the guitarist was playing a rhythm section, creating a frantic heart-pounding ending with flashing and blinding lights, screaming pedal effects and a whole lot of drums.
Mute Math finished with “Reset,” which begins like a Radiohead-inspired song but ends with a rhythmic overload. On the track, Meany uses an “Atari,” an instrument he put together that creates warping sounds through a metallic block with knobs and a neck.
Not to be outdone by the show’s lighting or instrumental effects, Meany decided to end the final song by jumping into the middle row of fluorescent lights and then running to the front row of the crowd, effectively pushing his keyboard over for the third time.
For Mute Math, the third time was a charm. Let’s just hope that keyboard makes it if there’s ever a fourth.
Chris Zakorchemny can be reached at email@example.com.