November 7th, 2011

Loopster Live: Mates of State w/ Generationals at Fitzgerald’s

“Hey, I think that’s the guy that signed my shirt last time… Grant!” says the insta-fan that attended the last Generationals show not-so-many moons ago. She somewhat implied that she wanted verification for her discovery, but before anybody could say a word she was approaching the spectacled half of the pop tandem.

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Just turning away from the bar having received a drink, Grant Widmer was cordial to his rabid fan, even pretending to remember striking his sharpie to her shoulder blade. The encounter was infused with the slight awkwardness that is an expectation of the modern indie musician.

This was only to be reinforced when halfway through the Generationals’ set, Widmer paused for a moment to get some crowd feedback. “How is this going? How do you think this is going?” he asks nobody in particular and then the crowd. The audience cheered in response. “Thanks for that, but you might have been forced into that,” he replied nonchalantly. After an indiscernible scream from the crowd, he points into the crowd and says “that girls likes my glasses,” before the band dove into “Yours Forever.”

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On the bigger stage of Fitzgerald’s Generationals really seemed to be more at home. With more room for their effervescent music to dissolve into thin air, the band flourished in a surprising jam session to close out one of my personal favorites, “Please Be It,” which is not to say that I wouldn’t think the band capable of such a musical interlude.

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By the end of their set, Generationals was extolling the virtues of Houston, with Ted Joyner saying that they “like the place more and more each visit… for real.” And it seemed that they were some of the biggest Mates of State fans in the room as they promised to be drinking along with the rest of the crowd to experience the headliner. But with the finale of “Trust” being belted out, I was more than happy to pretend that this was the be-all end-all of the night.

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Most of that sentiment was due to the fact that I don’t really know Mates of State. I’ve had limited exposure to the band and my iTunes has nary a song among its contents. This is all very surprising because I count among my friends a few rabid Mates fans.

The wed duo of Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel took their stage set up with a floral background, iridescent clouds and vine-tangled keyboard stand to the raucous applause of a full house. By the time their set came around, Fitz had opened up the second tier for fans to stay above the fray.

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The unique union of the band was quite a sight for someone not familiar. Through most songs, they glanced back and forth at each other picking up queues and playing along. The occasional banter between Gardner and Hammel between songs took an interesting song about halfway into the set. People began calling out for songs and the pair tried to handle each tune on the collective wish-list.

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“This has turned into an all request show,” they say, laughing at the show’s detour. “Does anyone else have a request… preferably something not from eight years ago?” The mob of people, empowered by the band started shouting out titles until Kori settled on one. “‘These Days?’ We don’t know that one,” she responded sarcastically. “Tell you what, we are only playing this one in Houston.”

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As the night wound down and I found myself taking up dancing space on the second floor, you could say that the harmonizing of Mates of State had won me over. At least I can say that I’ve now seen one of the more unique touring acts, as they take their two children on the road with them. That, in my opinion, is probably the coolest thing about the band. And on stage, the familial aspect is quite apparent and addicting even if some of the cynics among us would call it mushy.

Random Note — To the (whom I thought was a) random dude with the professional camera and huge attached flash: You were an annoyance to everyone all night long. I now know the reason why music venues require photo passes that are approved by the band and ban flash photography.

— Paul

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