Last Night: Mates of State at Culture Room

Categories: Concert Review
matesofstate.jpg
Jason Hammel and Kori Gardner, the husband-and-wife duo better known as Mates of State.

Mates of State
Friday, September 12, 2008
Culture Room, Fort Lauderdale

Better Than: Handsome Furs and Matt & Kim, I think.

One of music’s greatest enigmas has to be the husband-wife duo. Sometimes an audience’s -- and by audience’s, I mean my -- knowledge of the relationship can almost be distracting. For example, while the wife adamantly thrusts her fingers on the keys, and the husband drums rapidly; it’s hard not to wonder how they manage to make music together when most couples do well to agree upon what’s for dinner. I can just imagine them touring across the country in a van that probably smells like cheese puffs and coffee. How do they do it? Then, while I’m still wondering what they talk about on those drives, there is usually a kiss on the cheek from the husband halfway through the set. It’s all so sweet, really, but it’s also perplexing as hell.

Marriage aside, keyboardist Kori Gardner and drummer Jason Hammel, make upbeat college indie rock that gets college kids to go ape-shit. Well, at least the couple of hundred at Friday’s show. Girls in vintage-style dresses and smarty-looking guys wearing dark-rimmed glasses danced and sang like it was our last night on earth.

Using just a drum kit, and about four different electric keyboards, Mates of State hammered out a collection of fun, spirited tunes. It’s not surprising that after a while the songs start to sound the same for anyone less than a diehard fan. Sharing vocal duties, the duo have a simple, consistent electronic pop rock sensibility. Although their words were hard to decipher over the music, this crowd was chanting every lyric.

Not one song went by without an enthusiastic roar of cheers and dance from the fans, but some of the biggest audience favorites of the night included: “Now,” “Get Better,” “Blue and Gold Print,” and “Fraud in the ’80s.” A kid in the crowd shouted, “Play something old!” The duo gladly went right into “Fluke,” from 2003’s Team Boo. The song inspired the entire scene to sing, “We don't need to drive, oh no.” Finally, “The Re-Arranger,” a bright, catchy mix of vocal harmonies and beats, from their latest album, Re-Arrange Us, was played right before a two-song encore. First, was “These Days,” a solo performance from Gardner. Closing the set was “Proofs,” from Mates of States’ 2000 debut, My Solo Project. It appeared to leave this crowd perfectly satiated.

Musically, Mates of State keep things pretty straightforward, intimate and playful. It’s a formula that seems to be working just fine for the duo -- on and off stage.

Critic’s Notebook

Personal Bias: Midway through the set, I sorta wanted yell, “More guitar!”

Random Detail: The duo met in Kansas during the early ’90s when they were both involved with other projects and significant others.

By the Way: Mates of State’s fifth, most recent, album, Re-Arrange Us was released May 20.

-- Monica Cady

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