Last Night: Mates of State, Black Kids and Sunbears! at the Granada Theater

Mates of State, Black Kids, Sunbears!
Granada Theater
April 27, 2009

Better Than: Getting dropped on your head in a failed crowd surfing attempt.

Fans didn't let the dreary weather--or the fact that it was a Monday--stop them from packing the Granada last night, and the largely underage crowd was handsomely rewarded by killer sets by all three bands on the bill.

Jacksonville duo Sunbears! got the night started off right, appearing onstage wearing western shirts and waving a giant yellow flag. Like headliners Mates of State, the instrumentation consisted of keyboards and drums, only the Floridians relied on a backing track to bolster their sound. The real appeal of their set, however, were stunning visuals, from the perfectly-synched psychedelic videos being projected behind them to the lighting effects that the drummer controlled with foot pedals to the enormous balloon they unleashed into the crowd.

Fellow Jacksonville natives Black Kids were up next and took the show to the next level.

The bands live sound, pleasantly, wasn't as drenched in reverb as its album and far better displayed the group's new wave capabilities, making the tunes much more crisp and danceable. Singer Reggie Youngblood channeled his inner Robert Smith as his backing band played most of its Partie Traumatic debut, and unveiled a new tune called "UFO Cool." Lates, acknowledging their band's persistent comparisons to '80s post-punk outfits, Youngblood and Co. shoehorned a few choruses of New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle" into the middle of their hit "I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You."

Before leaving the stage Youngblood quipped, "Everybody says [Mates of State] are adorable... but they are badasses." The crowd at the Granada would soon come to agree with that assertion.

While it wasn't a late-'90s grunge-rock arena show, the husband-and-wife duo was still able to incite copious amounts of crowd surfing just the same. And though the Mates cause quite a cacophony of racket as just a twosome, they were joined onstage for around half of their songs by a pair of talented multi-instrumentalists who added smatterings of violin, cello, bells, trombone, tambourine, and guitar into the mix.

Midway through the set, organista Kori Gardner suggested that just as Dallas had brought crowd surfing back earlier in the night, they should also attempt to do the same with the slow dance, which they achieved by pulling a couple from the audience up onstage to sway to "Parachutes (Funeral Song)."

For an encore, the band put a western twist on Tom Waits' "Long Way Home," before going into a rendition of "Goods (All in Your Head," that found members from all three bands emerging from backstage carrying floor toms, ending the song in a raucous drum jam, then leaving the pair to conclude the evening with "The Re-Arranger."

By the end of the night, the Mates of State had proven once and for all that a band doesn't need overly complex instrumentation or song structures to create that big rock song -just a couple of badasses.

Critic's Notebook
Random Note:
I now remember why crowd-surfing went out of style to begin with: Even when you aren't dropped on your head, you still end up losing your place in the crowd.

By The Way: The multi-instrumentalists that backed up the Mates of State are a pair of cousins who play in a prog-metal band called Judgment Day, which happens to be opening for Dredg and Torche this Friday at the Granada as well.

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