When I first saw Mates of State, with their very upbeat songs and cookie cutter cute indie image, it was at a small basement club in Northampton, MA. The stage couldn't have been more than 18 inches high and the crowd was sparse but energetic. My friend and I danced like fiends and I shouted all the lyrics. Mates of State looked cooler than cool on that tiny stage, which fit their keyboards and drums just so. Now, two years later, Mates of State are more popular than ever, filling the large Paradise theatre. This crowd was nothing like I had experienced in Northampton. The crowd just stood there, a few heads bobbed, but no one busted even the slightest move. That's when I realized that Mates of State's new album Re-arrange Us isn't about prancing about; it's more serious, more in depth.
This concert was the last stop on the Mates' tour. They had been on the road for two months, away from their other life as suburban home dwellers in CT with two small kids (I bet they are the coolest neighbors ever) and you could tell that they were worn down. They had just performed at All Points West, the giant indie showcase overlooking the NYC skyline on Saturday. Their first song, "Fraud in the 80's" lacked its usual crowd pleasing fun. Although fatigued, Mates put on a good show though, showcasing their newest album. Songs like "You are Free" and "Get Better" were beautifully performed. Mates' pianist Kori Gardner, complete with platinum bob and awesome boots, gave it all she could.
Mates also made good use of their opening band, the surprising Judgment Day, whose violinist and cellist added some color to "Get Better" and the Mates cover of Nico's "These Days." Although fatigued, Mates really gave it all they had left. And being on the road for so long, I appreciated that.
Now I have to say something about the opener, Judgment Day. They were not what I expected. I see cello and violin and I think, "Oh this is going to be lovely folk music" but… no. Judgment Day was a metal band: Seriously (I should have known as the cellist stood and it's really, really difficult to play standing, trust me, I used to play. The name Judgment Day should also be a dead giveaway). Their music should accompany action films or montages of boxers. Something with blood. Or monsters. I think that's what they were going for. The crowd really had no idea what to think of them. I still don't know what to think of them. But that's how they got me, I'm still thinking about them.