Words & Images by: Jake Krolick
mewithoutYou :: 05.23.09 :: The Trocadero :: Philadelphia, PA
The brothers Weiss walked onto The Trocadero stage to an enormous ovation from a crowd long sold out before this night. Perhaps the loudest applause came from the balcony stage right. This key perch normally sits empty, but at mewithoutYou's CD release party, the side vantage point cradled most of the band's parents. The beaming elder Weisses shot their sons congratulatory smiles in one of those proud parent moments. The two sons returned the adoration and support with a splendid performance. The evening soared with Aaron Weiss' thoughtful cries rumbled with Richard Mazzotta's wildly feverish drumming. From crowd sing-alongs to a slew of guests, the performance featured a bit of everything for everyone in celebration of the Upper Darby-bred group's latest release, It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's All A Dream! It's Alright (released May 19 on Tooth and Nail).
We found the CD release parties' gracious hosts at an interesting crossroads in their career. They revealed songs that have evolved in stride, adding indie symphonies and shady Americana to their ever-growing repertoire, which has taken on hints of David Bowie, The Cure, The Decemberists, Bright Eyes and Built to Spill. They have refined their crusty, post-hardcore sound, and on this night they intermittently traded guitar solos for pianos. The sound that emerged was well-layered, intelligent and all-around fun to listen to.
Looking like a stripe-less Where's Waldo in his cap and plain long-sleeved tee, Aaron Weiss' song sounded remarkably close to The Decemberists' Colin Meloy. He tilted his head back and pushed out a "Goodbye, I!" that was ripe with homespun oral sentiment. The new song was being ambitiously driven along by Mazzotta's weighty, sweat-drenched whacks. He shot Michael Weiss meaty stares as Michael punched along on his Fender. Michael's guitar cried out hollow sounding, uncomplicated melodies that respired life and wrestled with the darkness that his brother's voice drew in. Within this yin-yang equilibrium lays the beauty of the Weiss brothers' music. They balance each other and the rest of the band brilliantly, both in their juxtapositioning of dark and light and in their ability to read each other like only brothers can.
The band was joined by one of their first guests, a female keyboardist who offered a celestial approach to "The Angel of Death Came to David's Room." The Brothers Weiss again walked that fine line of musical tight-ropery. This time it was Michael adding the darker tones and distorted notes on his electric guitar while Aaron strummed in the brighter tones on acoustic and sung lofty assurances to the audience. When it was finished Michael pierced the quiet applause with a trill and sinful guitar line. He leaned in and flexed the strings on his old Telecaster as Greg Jehanian's bouncing bass combined with the rhythmic clapping from the crowd. This launched the band into a lively track off of their third album, Brother, Sister, called "A Glass Can Only Spill What it Contains." Mazzotta ruined the kit and captivated us again as a shoe-in to win a Jack Black look-alike contest, not only in his looks but in similarly animated movements, too. He contorted his face as his wicked swings chastised the drums and sent huge gobs of red light stained sweat flying. As the band dug out some of the louder, raucous moments, they also revealed the only problem that plagued the show – some muddy sound issues. It was like a dense fog that crept into your ears, creating a terribly muffled sound that leaked its way into an otherwise splendid set.
| mewithoutYou :: 05.23.09 :: Philly|
The Weiss brothers are of Jewish descent, yet they were both raised in a household where the chosen religion was Sufism. They have been called (gasp) a Christian band, yet their songs explore multi-religious themes, and they are not defined by this categorization. Instead, they sing, not preach, about their own beliefs and spirituality. Their lyrics are reflections that question faith, love and life - not really all that different than any other rock & roll. At times their lyrics refer to God, Allah and Buddha. Don't let the critic's label muddy the experience because as a band they kill it, and the energy of their music shines through as the most important factor.
Take the performance of their song "Every Thought a Thought of You." As we listened to Michael's interplay with Mazzotta we could hear the searing power behind this band. It had a nasty indie groove that cut into your skull the same way Built to Spill's infectious melodies play that wonderfully evil mind-fuck on your head, making it nod in appreciation. The crowd was so enamored with their performance that when the band started into "January 1979," off Catch for Us the Foxes, the floor erupted in song, singing the first line and drowning out Aaron altogether. "In a fabric of bounce and surge/ January, 1979!"
| mewithoutYou :: 05.23.09 :: Philly|
The band gelled fantastically well and it was never more evident than when Mazzotta motioned the group back to his kit during a drum breakdown in "Tie Me Up! Unite Me!" They surrounded the drummer and each placed a hand on a cymbal in a self-congratulatory huddle before launching back out towards the crowd. It was an explosive moment of timing and showmanship that was worth witnessing. Aaron bounced around the stage kicking up his heals in an untamed dance. He moved in time with Christopher Kleinberg, the other guitarist. The energy had spread out into the masses and they began to swirl in an ebb and flow of bodies.
After playing another new song, "The Fox, the Crow, and the Cookie," the band started inviting a slew of visitors to the stage including an unnamed rapper, a horn player and a chamber orchestra complete with a conductor that sat in for "King Beetle on a Coconut Estate" off the latest album. The contrast between the waif-like conductor with his graceful movements and the sweat-gushing drum monster Mazzotta was magical. The conductor walked the instruments forward while Mazzotta remained poised. Droplets of sweat dripped off his nose in slow motion as he raised both arms high over his head before bringing them crashing down for the song's climax.
mewithoutYou returned for a two-punch encore by rolling onto the stage one member at a time. They started and finished the finale softly, but in between let it all loudly hang out as they built a joyful version of "Timothy Hay" and a climactic older fan favorite off Brother, Sister titled "In a Sweater Poorly Knit."
Some sons grow up hating and only wanting to kill, while others grow up loving and only wanting to create. After seeing the Weiss' proud parents, I thought of the lessons and ideals that other cultures have passed on and how they have influenced their sons' lives in very different ways. mewithoutYou's performance made me a believer in their fantastic music, regardless of labels or preconceived notions. The new album serves as a righteous slice of music and thought in a time that calls for faith in something. Whether that something is god, music or just simply yourself is up to you.
mewithoutYou are on tour now, dates available here.
Continue reading for more pics of mewithoutYou in Philly...