Mates of State
Fri., Oct. 12, 8 p.m. The Wolf Den, Mohegan Sun Casino, 1 Mohegan Blvd., Uncasville. (888) 226-7711, mohegansun.com. Free.
Last Friday night, New Haven's Ninth Square was illuminated, literally and figuratively, by the 2nd annual L.A.M.P. (Light Artists Making Places) festival. Artists projected giant videos onto the sides of downtown buildings. The hipster masses swarmed into Artspace's galleries with plastic cups of wine in hand. Music poured out from inside reclaimed storefronts. Locally made moonshine samples were freely distributed. Silly photo booth pictures were snapped in front of the safe of an old bank. A drum circle on Crown Street gained momentum until it nearly took over an entire block of the road, even as the usual scantily-clad weekend crowd began to arrive. The artists and musicians of New Haven were out in full force, and it was a sight to behold.
The highlight for many, however, was a free Mates of State show at Café Nine (that was filmed for posterity, in case you missed it). Fans showed up early to obtain a wristband so they wouldn't be excluded due to the bar's low capacity. Husband-wife duo Jason Hammel and Kori Gardner played as a duo, a rarity in recent years as it's been more common for them have other musicians join them on stage. Much of the set came from older records like Team Boo, before the bells and whistles were added, much to the delight of the hardcore, long-time fans.
The band has been very supportive of the local scene since relocating to Connecticut in 2004. They've brought area bands like the Stepkids and M.T. Bearington on the road with them. They filmed a recent video for the songs "Unless I'm Led" at the beach at Stratford Point. They've played at just about every venue at some point, including Daniel Street, the Space, BAR, Toad's Place, Gathering of the Vibes and, of course, Café Nine. Now they'll play the Wolf Den at Mohegan Sun at a free show this Friday night in the middle of the casino floor.
We threw together a quick listening guide of all of the band's full-length releases from the past 12 years to help you study up for the show:
My Solo Project (Omnibus, 2000; re-released on Polyvinyl, 2003)
The Mates' debut their unique sound, featuring drums, organ and playful harmonies, not to mention complicated song structures. It's lighthearted and joyous.
Our Constant Concern (Polyvinyl, 2002)
This batch of songs is more laid back than the first, in tempo and attitude, and it utilizes a greater variety of keyboard sounds. A respectable sophomore release.
Team Boo (Polyvinyl, 2003)
My personal favorite. This is where the band really hit its stride with songs like "Ha Ha," "Whiner's Bio" and "An Experiment" sure to make the greatest-hits record if ever there is one.
Bring It Back (Barsuk Records, 2006)
Guitars begin to creep into the mix and the songs start to get longer. Multi-tracking becomes a big part of the recording process. Layers are added.
Re-Arrange Us (Barsuk Records, 2008)
Kori plays some piano instead of organ, and the moods get more mature and complex. Produced by Peter Katis of Tarquin Studios in Bridgeport.
Crushes (The Covers Mixtape) (MOS Records / Constant Artists, Inc. / TuneCore, 2010)
An album of covers interpreted as only the Mates can see them, including a charming version of Daniel Johnston's "True Love Will Find You in the End."
Mountaintops (Barsuk, 2011)
Themes deal with things that arise in everyday life for a married couple that makes art together for a living. It's not as carefree as the earlier stuff, but it's honest and accurate, well grounded in reality.