Mates of State at the Record Bar – by Ian McFarland

It was hard not to notice how different the Record Bar felt on Tuesday night. Playing host to to seasoned Power Poppers Mates of State, the Westport Bar’s crowd was notably younger, filled girls in their late teens. A venue that typically hosts a mix of hipsters and quiet guys in their twenties, The Record Bar felt like a different place entirely, with the bright houselights on and a large, potentially sold-out crowd full of friendly, enthusiastic conversation between sets.

But then again, Mates of State aren’t your typical Record Bar act. They’re a husband and wife duo – Kori Gardner on keys, Jason Hammel on drums, both singing (and, as a testament to Hammel’s range, at about the same pitch). They ware joined by a guitarist that was barely audible (or needed), and another musician that switched between keys and trumpet.

With that lineup, Mates of State’s brand of pop is a unique one. They’re music makes them too friendly to have ever amassed too much popularity, but that same aspect makes their sound too contagious to dismiss. It’s clean-cut, and the smiles on stage are just as essential as any component of the music.

But the sound didn’t stick out as much as the stage decorations. With a backdrop that could have been ripped off of a Parade Float, the band took the stage in front of a quilt of bright, pretty flowers. Overhead hung lights surrounded by white, fluffy material that mocked tiny clouds, and faux-foliage bloomed over Gardner’s keyboards and Hammel’s bass drum. To be clear, it was all very pretty, which is exactly why it was strange to see in the Record Bar.

Appropriate to the band’s enthusiasm, the audience was vocal in their support. A lot of rock shows at the Record Bar can be defined by arm-folding listeners that only show polite applause after each song, but Mates of State were a polar opposite. It all coalesced into a cheery set. The Mates’ sound often lacks energy or direction (which is especially missed in Live settings), but only a real curmudgeon could have had a bad time during this set.

Not as much support was shown to opener Generationals, though their diverse sound makes for songs that transcend a novel sound for some legitimate groove and pep. The New Orleans duo showed up as a five piece, all wearing slim button-up shirts with (mostly) tidy hair. On record, the band has a sound that spans from 60s Doo-Wap to electronically produced Rock-Pop. In a live setting, they had to settle more for the latter sound, what without Pipe Organs or Horns that define several of their tracks, but it was a faithful if imaginative substitute.

By Ian T. McFarland

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