Mates of State kick out the jams with a very small audience in their metaphorical Connecticut backyard, fresh off of three nights opening for The Postal Service in sizable arenas.
The relationship between the band Mates of State and the Connecticut concert production company, Manic Productions, has been a long and fruitful one. Occasionally, I have dropped in. My first Mates show was probably Manic Productions' first with them -- way back in November 2004 when the husband and wife duo of Jason and Kori Hammel performed at the Wallingford American Legion possibly not long after they moved to the state. I remember the tiny domicile-like venue bursting at the seams with people and I can't recall having to pay for admission as I got mixed up with the people milling all about (sorry?!). Fast-forward almost a decade and Mates of State and Manic continue to put on shows together; this latest one held at an annex to the original The Space venue in Hamden, the 21+ Spaceland Ballroom (think less Cheetos and more craft-brews). The band even credited Manic Mark (who was not so long ago the feature of an article) as the inspiration before their performance of a new song.
Mates of State didn't actually come on till almost 11:30 and when they did, the crowd gathered tight near the stage to sing and dance along with the band's joyous pop anthems. Joining the keyboard and drums of the Hammels were a guitar and trumpet (plus other instruments) wielded by two other musicians, one of whom plays with the band M.T. Bearington. The band charmed their way through "The Re-arranger" and "My Only Offer" amongst other meticulous gems in their hour long set.
The band may have hewed close to their set from the previous night at the Barclays Center as they closed out with "Palomino". However, they clearly veered off for the encore as Jason announced that it had been Kori's birthday for half an hour. He led the band and the audience through a sing along of "Happy Birthday" before asking Kori to pick what they should play next. You could sense Kori just wanted to relax, and she asked for a glass of wine, but the band gave us one last classic song before ending the night.
Though I came for Mates of State, I found time to take in a bit of the openers, Modern Merchant and the set from Scottish group, Paws, the final show of their current US tour, while absorbing the venue and trying a couple of the craft brews, including ones by the local Two Roads brewery. I also had a chance to observe the anti-gun violence conversation that was present at the merch table. The band didn't deliberately preach politics, but Kori has been known to speak out against gun violence in other forums.
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Manic Productions successfully hosts lots of shows each and every month. Their biggest bill to date, The Flaming Lips with Spiritualized as the openers, happens on July 15th in Wallingford. Information on that show and others can be found at their site http://www.manicproductions.org. One of the first shows I covered for PopMatters was at The Space.
Mates of State: