mewithoutYou is a band on the upswing. 2015’s Pale Horses was one of the experimental hardcore band’s best releases to date and Friday sees the release of [Untitled], a record that sees mewithoutYou in peak form. They brought a confidence only a band approaching the 20-year mark could muster to Brooklyn's Elsewhere on Wednesday night (10/3). Supported by rock groups Hurry and Joan of Arc, this was the opening night of the three-leg tour they'll be on through early December.
Joan of Arc, the long-running project of Tim Kinsella (of shorter-lived projects like Cap’n Jazz and Owls), played their experimental style of rock for nearly 30 uninterrupted minutes before introducing themselves. It’s tough for crowds to know what to make of Joan of Arc, as was evidenced at Elsewhere. The minutes of drum fills would stop, only for Kinsella to sing a couple verses accompanied only by clean guitar. The crowd took some warming up, but it was evident that Kinsella and the rest of Joan of Arc are well aware of how their music can be alienating. Closing out the set with a song titled “Thank You, Sorry,” which was mostly just Kinsella singing the song’s title over and over and over, was one last reminder that Joan of Arc is often more performance art than rock band.
When mewithoutYou took the stage, you wouldn’t think they were more than a post-hardcore band. To diehards, that sounds like an insult, but it’s not. The band opened the show on a very intense note, “9:27A.m., 7/29,” which is also the opening track of their new record. This energy continued through “The Dryness and the Rain”, which was the only song played from their classic 2006 album Brother, Sister. As they settled into a set comprised of new songs and other career-spanning highlights, the band let their more experimental side shine through. This was punctuated by fan favorite scream-alongs “Mexican War Streets” and “Tie Me Up! Untie Me”.
It was hard to take your eyes off frontman and lyrical heart of the band Aaron Weiss. With his iconic two-microphone set-up, spoken word vocals that transform into screams - think somewhere between Phil Elverum and La Dispute - and constant motion, Weiss was as exciting to watch as he was excited to still be giving performances like this. He would run across the stage during a breakdown only to grab and tune an acoustic guitar, or a tambourine, or an accordion. It was such a frantic, busy performance that it’s easy to forget Weiss is now in his late thirties and a parent of two -- which he mentioned on stage. He talked about this being his first show since his second child was born, one of the first shows with bassist Greg Jehanian back, and the first time the band played half this setlist. But the uninitiated wouldn’t know it. Sure, they may have left off a handful of the early/mid 2000s songs that made them who they are, but what's so striking about mewithoutYou is how much the new songs are both a shocking return to form and yet still sound fresh. mewithoutYou are a veteran band who are proud of the recent work they've been doing and looked thrilled to be debuting these new songs. How can you fault them for that?
Watch some videos and check out the full setlist below. mewithoutYou's leg with Joan of Arc and Hurry continues in Boston tonight (10/4) and they have upcoming legs with Smidley and TWIABP. [Untitled] is officially out this Friday via Run For Cover, but you can stream it and read our recent interview with Aaron Weiss here.
mewithoutYou at Elsewhere - 10/3/18 Setlist
The Dryness and the Rain
Another Head for Hydra
East Enders Wives
Fox's Dream of the Log Flume
Julia (or, 'Holy to the LORD' on the Bells of Horses)
Mexican War Streets
Wendy & Betsy
Tie Me Up! Untie Me!
New Wine, New Skins
Bear's Vision of St. Agnes
Flee, Thou Matadors!