Mates of State – Mercury Lounge – December 6, 2012
Before playing an undoubtedly equally fun, sweaty and loud late show last night at Mercury Lounge, Kansas pop duo Mates of State got things started with one of the venue’s great post-work early shows. The small club was filled with adoring fans, and the band knew it from the moment they started the set with the bouncy “Fraud in the ’80s.” For the next hour or so those in the crowd bobbed their heads and swayed to songs old and new—some so new that they didn’t even have titles yet, which Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel parlayed into some funny banter as they asked for opinions of their oblique working names for the tracks.
The audience was laser focused, in part because the overlap with those also attending the late show apparently wasn’t too big after Hammel informally polled the crowd about who would be at both shows and was met with just a few loud shouts. But everyone was energized as the band ran through their bright set of melodic pop, especially after they dug out older songs like “Open Book” and “Ha Ha,” both off of 2003’s Team Boo, during a stretch of other earlier material that the room full of fans were more than pleased to hear.
Before Mates of State played, another duo squeezed in a set (backed by two other members for their tour) whose set shouldn’t be overlooked. At first, California’s In the Valley Below seemed like they’d just be an easy-on-the-ears pop duo warm-up act, but every time their music leaned that way it would change, as singer Jeffrey Jacob slashed out blistering guitar parts while he harmonized with Angela Gail. It’s not hard to imagine this duo making it back to Mercury Lounge with their own double bill someday soon. —Sean O’Kane