On Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, at the Hi-Fi Indy, emo/indie rock band mewithoutYou reminisced, with a full house, 15 years since the release of their debut album “[A→B] Life.” The show was the last stop of the tour’s first leg. The band’s appearance was prefaced by two openers who had both been along for the full US tour thus far.
The first opening act was Strawberry Girls, a three-man experimental rock group from Salinas, California. Lead guitarist, Zachary Garren, previously played for Dance Gavin Dance, and formed Strawberry Girls in 2010. As they lack a vocalist, this group didn’t say much lyrically, or in stage banter, but their sound sure packed a punch. This was one of those shows where you can feel the bass in your stomach, and I immediately wished I had brought earplugs. I hadn’t necessarily expected to hear this sound at a mewithoutYou concert. Nonetheless, the repetitive melodic riffs were incredible, and the audience clearly enjoyed it. Check them out on Bandcamp.
Pianos Become the Teeth gave a different sort of gut-wrenching performance. As tangled in the emotional lyrics as he was in the mic cord, vocalist Kyle Durfey expressed mostly painful thoughts over an atmospheric guitar and echoed drums. The performance was definitely intense, but this was music to sway to, not to rage to, which seemed to be a consistent feel across their repertoire. For the most part, I just stood aside trying to absorb the mood of the room while straining a bit to understand each line of Durfey’s shaky vocals. He was definitely engaged with the lyrics, body swaying and twisting, fists clenched on raised arms. He never seemed to face the audience as he sang, instead, Durfey stood sideways at the mic stand. The crowd didn’t seem to mind though, and they seemed to internalize both the mood and meaning as much as Durfey. Pianos began tearing down the set even as the guitarist continued to carry us out on his slow, sad melody. I must say, it’s a pity for them that I was ready for it, but this was already two hours into the night.
After a quick set change, which involved taping bouquets of carnations to the mic booms, the feature presentation finally commenced. What was previously a crowd packed shoulder-to-shoulder, quickly eroded into a floor-shaking mosh pit, at least in the front where I happened to find myself. It was an exhilarating opening. I even found myself face to face with Aaron Weiss in the fourth or fifth row after he leapt out onto the crowd.
Now, I’ve become somewhat familiar with some of mewithoutYou’s more recent albums, but I hadn’t heard much of [A→B] Life. The songs, unsurprisingly, were saturated with Weiss’ spiritual and emotional musings. Still, instead of the more folk-rock, melodic story-telling style I had familiarized myself with, and even sang to a girl seven years ago, to whom I am now married, it was mostly a first-person narration combo of spoken-word performance and screaming, and you can bet the audience screamed along every word. mewithoutYou has developed quite a cult (and subreddit), following in 15 years.
Weiss seems to be quite the performer. His engagement with the audience was intimate throughout the show. At times, Weiss leaned into the crowd from the stage, his arms mingling indistinguishably with those of concertgoers. He even embraced a crowd surfer as he neared the platform. Despite some minor (but slightly distracting) mic stand issues, Weiss seemed to remain so absorbed in the songs and his performance, that he couldn’t stand not to move, to dance, sometimes rigidly, sometimes fluidly. His body was the physical expression of both the sound and the meaning of the music. At times, you’d even think he was missing from the stage, only to find he was just sitting on the ground. Weiss is not just a vocalist; he incorporated auxiliary percussion such as tambourines and maracas throughout, and even pulled out an accordion and acoustic guitar.
Over all, though not exactly what I expected, this was a great show that kept everybody excited late into the night. I’ve been listening to “[A→B] Life” ceaselessly since, and have been moved in the meaningful ways that so many fans appreciate about this group. At one point in the night, Weiss explained that at the release of this album 15 years ago, “The only place that understood where we were coming from was Indiana. This was kinda a homecoming show for us.” To mewithoutYou on behalf of LemonWire, I assure you, you are welcome anytime.
Photos by Jordan Mendenhall