Mates of State, Asobi Seksu

Club Congress, Sunday, Nov. 26

All-ages shows are great; don't get me wrong. But there's something problematic about that net that separates those of age from those who are not. Live shows allow people to connect with the music in a way that's impossible when listening to a recording: You're breathing the same air as the musicians, feeling the bass in your bones and the feedback in your ears; there's nothing between you and the music. But when there's a net separating the two, there can be a disturbance in the force.

The net was not a problem for openers Asobi Seksu (Tokyo slang for "playful sex"), who love their fuzzbox and chorus pedals. Their songs alternated from something like Pizzicato Five or The Cure to a buzzing loudness so intense that it didn't matter where you were standing. But proximity is important for a band like Mates of State, whose music is all about warmth and space. With just their voices, drums and an organ or keyboard, Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel do things with rhythm and melody most bands with twice as many instruments can only attempt, and they stare at each other and smile as they play. Usually, something about the tone of the organ and the pulse of the drums is engulfing. But Sunday night, in front of the stage, all I could hear were Hammel's drums. In the back, near the sound booth, I could hear everything evenly, but then there was that net. It makes you feel like a zoo animal. I had a choice: Stay in the front and feel the warmth, or stay in the back and actually be able to hear the organ and vocals.

The latter won out.

Gardner and Hammel played most of the rockers off of this year's Bring It Back, as well as some slightly older songs. Hammel thanked everyone for coming to see them instead of Queensyrche, prompting Gardner to make fun of Hammel's history as a metalhead. ("He had long hair. Everyone called him 'Moppy,'" Gardner informed us.) "Like U Crazy" turned into a surreal version of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy." The second-to-last song was a new one, and Gardner made spacey sounds bubble out of her organ as she and Hammel sang "no no no no no" on the chorus. I may have felt like a zoo animal, but it would have been a terrible loss to not have heard the organ and vocals, especially on the new song.

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