mewithoutYou w/ Rocky Votolato & Auctioneer, Mr Small's 7/5
I never know what to expect at mewithoutYou shows, but I always know it’s going to be awesome. This show certainly lived up to that expectation. Touring to support their first independently released full length album Ten Stories, mewithoutYou are joined by Auctioneer and singer-songwriter Rocky Votolato.
Auctioneer- and their excellent haircuts!- opened the evening with a 30 minute set of super fun retro-cool jams. Singer Craig Hendrix leads the band with his lovely Springsteen-esque low growl and keyboardist Jesse Moore appeared to be having the time of this life and was a joy to watch. Their anthemic, slow-building sound was perfect for the old church acoustics of Mr. Small’s, and if the audience had never heard of them before, no one seemed to mind and by the end of the set, everyone was bopping along to the surfy beats.
Up next, Rocky Votolato preformed an absolutely perfect acoustic set. mewithoutYou fans tend to be a bit on the fanatic side, so I can not imagine what it’s like to play naked songs to a crowd of 300+ fans that are about to see their favorite band, but Votolato knocked it out of the park. His harmonica and guitar created a rich, full sound perfectly complimented by his alt-country vocals. Lyrically the songs were rich with imagery and a maturity that likely comes from Votolato’s ten year marriage. It’s not likely I would have ever come across this fantastic artist had he not been opening for my favorite band, but I was very pleased to meet Mr. Votolato’s music and will definitely be keeping my eye on his tour schedule, should he ever come back to Pittsburgh.
I’m at a loss for what to say about mewithoutYou’s live show. Their energy, from the first note of “O, Porcupine” to the last chord of “All Circles” was relentless and the crowd could not have been happier to be there. Known for complicated, wordy lyrics rich with complicated imagery, I was ecstatic to look around and see that nearly every person in attendance knew the words to every complicated song, and the audience was rapt with attention for the entire set.
The night began with fan favorite “O, Porcupine”, one of their faster, more hardcore-esque songs. Midway through the song the band goes silent, waiting for singer Aaron Weiss to breathe into the microphone the magic words- “listen to it”- and those unitiated in the audience were quickly “Shhh!”’d by other fans for breaking the mewithoutYou show code and speaking during the silence, which went on extra long while Aaron unwrapped the microphone cord from the stand.
Aaron Weiss is a wiry ball of kinetic energy and clearly puts his everything into each show. The temperatures in Pittsburgh were nearly 90, yet Weiss still donned his signature plaid long-sleeved shirt, heavy canvass work pants and wool cap while dancing manically through the hour and change long set. Never change, Aaron, never change. Not to be outdone, the rest of the band works hard as well. Drummer Rickie Mazzotta brought his incredible skills to the table and managed to both signal instructions to the sound and light boards and drive the band’s urgent rythyms.
The setlist included songs that displayed the impressive range of the band across their five full length albums. They played everything from fast-tempo, heavily rocking “January 1979” to slow, soft fan favorites like “Yellow Spider”. The show ended with the spiraling force of “All Circles”, Aaron dancing and reminding us that “All circles presuppose they’ll end where they begin, but only in their leaving can they ever really come back ‘round again”, a fitting end to an awesome night.