Concert Reviews

Last Night: Mates of State at the Granada Theater

Mates of State, Free Energy
Granada Theater
July 7, 2010

Better than:
Sitting home and watching cooking shows

Mates of State were back at the Granada last night playing to a very appreciative crowd of fans that filled the theater's floor level--but not the whole theater space. The balcony section was closed off.

Taking the stage at just around 10 o'clock, husband and wife Jason Hammel and Kori Gardner were accompanied by a guitarist and multi-instrumentalist (trumpet, keyboards) giving them a full--and, actually, maybe too full--sound. 

I'll confess to being (at best) a casual fan of the band, but it was clear from opening song that the crowd was full of fans solidly in their corner, regardless of the presentation.

The Mates are touring behind the June release of Crushes, an album of cover songs, several of which were included in the set. And, sure, the band was tight and particularly impressed with Jason's drumming. But it's their singing and harmonies that are their trademark. And those didn't disappoint.

The covers themselves, however, did. For example, the intimate Tom Waits confessional "Long Way Home" was transformed into a bombastic shout-along--something I initially took as an exaggerated live-performance thing until streaming the song from the band's web site after the show. Turns out, that was how they intended to make it sound. Who'd have thunk?

Still, the crowd dug the covers, as well as their originals, and the performance on whole no doubt satisfied.

Opening the show was Minneapolis' Free Energy. With their heads and hearts locked firmly in the '70s, the band played an energetic set that didn't seem to connect with the Mates audience.  But they're a pretty tight band, if you want to catch a dose of updated "classic" rock, and they too pleased.

Critics Notebook
Personal Bias: As noted above, I'm really not a big fan of covers that reinvent songs. But I'll give the Mates credit for an eclectic list of cover selections ranging from Belle & Sebastian to Daniel Johnston.

By The Way: That was a really diverse crowd that included some very large dudes dancing to the Mates' twee (if loud) harmonies.