Last night was one of those rare opportunities for a lover of music: the chance to hear a record I’ve been listening to non-stop (Love’s Crushing Diamond) performed live; a pretty fresh, new band (Mutual Benefit) and therefore my first time seeing them; and my first time taking in a show at the lovely Boot & Saddle in South Philly. It all merged magically.
1. Having listened to the record on the regular, from beginning to end, it’s burned its way into my brain in a succession. It’s such a delightful, calming and easy listen — the kind of record that’s ideal for putting on while you do stuff (cook, clean, write, roll a joint, etc.). So it was mildly disarming to hear the first song of the night and realize that it wasn’t the record’s first track and that the ordering would be shuffled.
2. All fears were immediately shattered as I realized that Mutual Benefit was going to be more exciting and dynamic than I’d hoped. The record’s so chill, but it was quickly apparent that the show would be loud, would be a night of ever-building musical tension. Also note: There’s absolutely no way the show (or the record) would have been the same without the presence of that violin — it’s a main character on the record, so I was pumped to see a hard-working violinist on stage for the whole set.
3. They had six players on stage: a sweet keys girl who sang backup, a boss drummer, another guitarist, the aforementioned violinist and their extraordinarily charming (and, yes, a little awkward) leader, Jordan Lee.
4. Some frontmen offer up banter that’s annoying — but Lee’s was sweet and mellow and made me smile. He told the tale of the last time Mutual Benefit played in Philly and how they were offered a place to crash by some swell West Philadelphians. But even better was his admission to resenting Darkside just a little bit, all in good jest. The two bands have been basically following the same tour path and even sometimes playing in the same building, and Darkside has been generating fans and buzz at a slightly greater rate than MB – critics and electronic music nerds love them. Darkside played Union Transfer last night, in fact — and while I usually don’t do the yell-from-the-crowd thing, I felt compelled to shout and let Lee know that UT had been giving away Darkside tickets on Facebook. I think he enjoyed that.
5. Mutual Benefit did an amazing job at achieving all kinds of different vibes, from the opener’s slow build that created anticipation for a crescendo crash, to the song that ditched any sense of orchestral grace in order to dig into a funk groove fueled by the bass and percussion. If they wanted to, I bet these guys could nail some covers for a wedding reception.
6. The turnout was solid, the sound was pretty spot-on, and this place is about four blocks from my house. I’m not sure if people are sleeping on Boot & Saddle or what, but their calendar’s looking plump and rich. They’ve come a long way since they started booking and I bet by this summer I’ll be living there.
7. Sounded like they played a few new songs, and I was not mad at all. I can’t wait to hear where they take their sound and their aesthetic. If I recollect correctly, the new ones — or, at least, the ones I hadn’t heard — seemed shorter than the album tracks, less sprawling and complex.
8. Sometimes I feel totally alone with my obsession with a record that I would consider a close cousin to Love’s Crush Diamond: Death Vessel’s Nothing is Precious Enough For Us. Please, I beg you, get that record and consume it. It’s so pretty.
9. Apparently, Lewis & Clarke, who opened for them, rip. Missed it this time, but they’re on my radar now. Lee admitted to their greatness being a little intimidating to follow; even Joey Sweeney, in attendance, raved about them. So noted: Find this band.
10. On the band’s Facebook page, in the “About” section, there is simply this: “post-lunar buddha turds.”