Mates of State, Black Kids, & Sunbears!
Mates of State, Black Kids, & Sunbears! Rating:
House of Blues – Boston, MA
April 7, 2009
Reviewed by: Sally Feller
On a busy Tuesday night in Fenway, the Red Sox played their opening day game. Right across the street at the House of Blues was where all the real fun lived. Sunbears! opened up for Mates of State and Black Kids, creating an open atmosphere of cheery joy. Seriously, their name includes exciting punctuation, they have to be cheerful! These Jacksonville rockers have a fun sound that’s somewhere between indie pop and moody electro-atmospheric rock. Incidentally, sunbears also are a species of bear found in the tropical rainforests of Southern Asia. Rainforests=fun. Asia most likely also=fun. Therefore: Sunbears!=FUN. Case in point, about midway through their set, they maneuvered a giant transparent balloon out into the crowd as we all stared at the orb and the bright lights, transported to a happy non-Tuesday-I-have-to-work-tomorrow kind of mood. For your first listen, I’d suggest listening to “Little Baby Pines” to get an idea of what kind of music they create. Crowd participation is always encouraged and these guys did a great job to prep the crowd for Mates of State.
I’m going to begin the Mates of State section of the review simply by saying that I’m going to try to write this not as a fan-girl, but as a neutral observer. But it’s going to be difficult, if not impossible. This husband-wife group from Kansas (or Connecticut or California, I can’t get a clear read on this one) has been spreading the happy bug to people since around 1999. I’ve listened to them over the years and always found myself bobbing my head inadvertently and grinning like an idiot. It’s just optimistic indie pop in its purest form. In a live setting, the passion they have for their music is unmistakable and magnetic. I actually saw communal handholding and swaying as if this were Woodstock and it was before everyone was at orgy-level. The other perk of seeing them live is that they’re just fun as hell to watch. Kori Gardner held the piano and organ entirely under her powerful dominion; she also looks a bit like Veronica Mars, which can never be a negative thing. Jason Hammel seemed to somehow have control over my feet as I tapped out every one of his drum beats with my own tired feet. They also had two guest musicians on tour with them, one on violin and percussion and the other on cello, both joining in for backup vocals. Mates of State has become my official “snap out of it” music for a bad day; it’s like the lazy man’s yoga, all you have to do is listen, no stretching required.
The finale was Black Kids, a band from Jacksonville that plays a more dance-friendly indie pop than Mates of State. Having the two groups together was a bit confusing for me, honestly, because Mates of State is who you’d listen to with a smallish group of buddies while drinking beer or wine and Black Kids is what you listen to while getting ready to go out, before strapping on some stilettos, to drink martinis and the occasional tequila shot. They were competing forces for me. Black Kids is definitely fun and would be great at a party or at a loud, trendy bar. And I’m not going to say I did this or anything, but they’re also ideal for sweeping and mopping floors when you really don’t want to clean but your place is a sty. They have a great mix of sounds, guitar, keyboards, killer vocals, synth-electro sounds, catchy drums, and lusty bass. They sound a bit 80s—The Cure mixed with Duran Duran mixed with New Order with a Blondie garnish. These kids are definitely worth a listen.
Catch the tour if you can and the show isn’t already sold out because I guarantee that you’ll leave happy and lighter than when you arrived.
Mates of State: