[19 October 2011]
The stage at Webster Hall was covered with garlands of greenery and two puffy white clouds hanging from the ceiling for the Mates of State show October 12th. A full house of fans arrived to see indie pop’s married couple Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel, who have been creating music together for over a decade. After a deviation to a covers album last year, the duo is back on their game, offering up buoyant and carefully crafted songs about going through life as a twosome. They took to their instruments to bang out an infectious mix of hits and new tunes off the latest release, Mountaintops. There seemed to be lots of pairing off in the audience as well, yet everyone was ready to sing along and pump fists in support. Gardner stood at command in front of her keyboards, wearing a graphic print top and her blond hair in a high ponytail, while Hammel sat at his drum kit in a dress shirt and vest ready to rock. Throughout the night, there were lots of knowing smiles and mouthing of words to communicate with each other—when they weren’t busy singing of course. Kenji Shinagawa supported them solidly on guitar and John Panos brought a magnetic stage presence, playing extra keys, trumpet and tambourine as needed to broaden the Mates’ signature sound.
The band began with “Get Better” off 2008’s Re-Arrange Us to get things rolling. Then new songs were introduced: a rollicking beat in “Maracas” along with two compositions allowing a softer side, “Unless I’m Led” and “Desire”. Although, the lyrics, “You’ll learn to live without me”, seemed an unlikely thought from this songwriting team. The sentiment behind “At Least I Have You” sounded much more applicable, not that it really matters. Crowd pleasers such as “The Re-Arranger”, “Goods”, “Like U Crazy”, “Now”, and “My Only Offer” punctuated the night, along with more contributions from Mountaintops. The soaring new single “Palomino” provided the finale with the band exiting to strobe lights, leaving behind a flashing energetic afterglow.