MewithoutYou/Kevin Devine/Buried Beds – Music Hall of Williamsburg – August 16, 2012
Before they wrap up a summer of touring for their fifth album, Ten Stories, at home this weekend in Philadelphia, wordy rockers mewithoutYou played the first of two shows here in New York City. Their unique mix of sharp guitars, grungy accordion (if there is such a thing) and lyrics that iterate but never truly repeat, all had the crowd at Music Hall of Williamsburg howling last night. To the untrained eye the band’s style would seem like so much noise and clatter, but a second look would unearth the skill that each member possesses. When singer Aaron Weiss wasn’t rifling off dense verses, he was kneeling by the drum set, toweling off while prepping another new instrument to play. Brother Michael Weiss was armed with a litany of ways to alter his maniacal-at-times playing, as was bassist Greg Jehanian, who used a slide to stretch out the highest notes his bass could produce.
The lineup before mewithoutYou was notably diverse, as they followed hometown act Kevin Devine, who professed that this had been one of his “top two or three tours” he’s ever been on, nodding to the skill and passion of the musicians he shared it with. As Devine’s acoustic sets tend to be, his was brilliant and beautiful, as he handles dynamics in a way most solo performers wouldn’t even know how. Throughout each song Devine constantly leaned in toward and away from the microphone, whether in inches or feet, as during a chilling, crawling version of “Brother’s Blood.” His stripped-down performances have also become enthralling to watch because of the push and pull between his commanding presence and his fans’ desire to sing along with him. Like you sometimes lean a certain way to try to change the path of the person headed straight for you on a crowded street, Devine held and stretched certain words and chords to keep the audience from drowning him out, relenting only a handful of times.
But the big surprise of the show was Buried Beds, a band that looked young when they took the stage but dispatched that perception with an incredibly tight performance of their folk-pop style. Partially led by mewithoutYou’s second guitarist Brandon Beaver and backed by drums, bass and violin, their sound was highlighted by pitch-perfect lead vocals and harmonies from Eliza Jones, who also manned guitar and keyboards. —Sean O’Kane
(See all three bands tonight at The Bowery Ballroom.)