Photos courtesy of Jenna Harper
Sometimes in the middle of the afternoon I dream of being a baby turtle. That way people would be all like, "Aww, look at that baby turtle. So cute." Or something. A cupcake. Cupcakes are totally cute, all the way cute. Mates of State is a giant baby turtle gumming a cupcake. Their business model is bunny rabbit. Their currency? Swing-set.
And the cute, it works. They make music for just-married white college graduates who are spending their first summer together in their new house in the gentrified section of Anytown, USA, and now one of them is sick and wants chicken soup. Lots of da-da-das and do-dee-dops. Not much to think about other than smiles and Saturdays, and evidently ear safety. A dude in the crowd was wearing earplugs. To a Mates of State show. Which is kind of like wearing a body cast made of iron while sleeping in the middle of a Pop-tart. Ear plugs, really?
It all came packaged with a bow Wednesday night, as Mates of State teamed up with Black Kids on their dual headlining tour - we got the Mates to headline, Black Kids are up on the next stop - each performing for about an hour and each giving us a panoply of songs that made dancing for three minutes and then for three minutes and then for three minutes, the only option.
It's kind of difficult to critique either band, or even write something substantive enough to be interesting, because both Mates of State and Black Kids sing songs that kind of demand inattention - you'd be hard-pressed, I imagine, to tell me the difference between song six and song 11, because the songs are basically derivatives of the others. Which is not to say that the songs aren't good, because they are.
The formula is successful for both of these bands: Write songs for middle-class white couples that are easily digested, and then easily forgotten. But the songs, they're great. Just try to write a negative review about Mates of State and be prepared to be called a total dick. They're just hard to not like. And I'm not sure what that means.
Most of the songs Mates of State performed Wednesday night came from their new record, Re-Arrange Us, while the songs the audience seemed most excited about were those from Team Boo (my God, that's an adorable title). Though, on the way home from the show, a friend and I were like, hey let's listen to Mates of State, remember how we just saw them! "May as well keep the night going" kind of thing.
So we put it on, and I was thinking to myself yep, they played this. And this. And yeah, they totally played this. I think I remember this one. Oh yeah, they played it. Because Mates of State songs - they're the same. Good the same, but the same. And I'm not faulting them for that, not even a little. There's something to be said for safety.
Some of the highlights of the night were, "My Only Offer," "Ha Ha," "Fluke," "Re-Arrange Us," and especially "Get Better" (the video of which will make you be like, cute) and "Goods," where Black Kids joined Mates onstage in an orgiastic ode to the power of the twirl. It's safe to assume that most people left happy, though not so safe to assume that those same people can recount today what they saw last night.
Mates of State and Black Kids are fantastic, and they are forgettable. Like Twizzlers.