October 10, 2017 Rainer Maria Charm Hamden, CT 9-30-17
The so-called Emo Revival has seen the return of some incredible bands over the past few years. Fans thought they might never see bands like Jawbreaker and American Football reunite, but the surprises keep on coming. One of those surprises was the resurrection of Rainer Maria, one of the greatest and most underrated bands from Emo’s heyday.
After nearly ten years of dormancy, Rainer Maria announced a single reunion show at the end of 2014, and now they have returned in full-force with a brand new album, entitled S/T, as of August 2017 through Polyvinyl Records. Out in support of the new music, partaking in their first full tour in a decade, on Saturday, September 30th, the band played a special co-headlining show with Mates of State and support from Selector Dub Narcotic at The Outer Space Ballroom in Hamden, Connecticut.
Though the name Selector Dub Narcotic might not sound familiar, the name Calvin Johnson just might ring a few bells. Johnson is the founding member of the influential American Indie band Beat Happening, and he has also founded bands like The Go Team and Cool Rays among his multitude of other musical projects. In addition, Johnson is the founder of K Records, a label that has worked with Bikini Kill, Built to Spill, and Modest Mouse, to name just a few. Needless to say, Johnson’s influence played a major role in making Olympia, WA a Mecca for contemporary American music.
Now, Johnson is creating solo music under the name Selector Dub Narcotic, and he brought his entertaining one-man show to get the crowd amped up for Rainer Maria. Armed with only a laptop, plug-in keyboard, and his killer dance moves, he brought out tracks like “I Need Sum” as well as “And Stuff Like That There” from his album, 2016’s This Party Is Just Getting Started. The crowd seemed to really enjoy Johnson’s unique stage presence, especially when he put down the mic and managed to reach the whole room with an impressive spoken-word piece “All for the Sake of Rhyming.” Then, he changed things up and got some laughs with his stories before finishing his set with “Every Woman is Beautiful.” Johnson really knew how to work the crowd, and even those who had no idea what to expect came away smiling.
Next to take the stage were Connecticut’s own Mates of State, who once shared a record label and toured extensively with Rainer Maria in the early 2000s. This husband and wife duo have been playing music together since 1997 and have released seven albums along with multiple singles. Though Mates of State have not put out an LP since Mountaintops in 2011, the band are still going strong. Fans packed in close to the tiny stage to sing along with Vocalist/Pianist Kori Gardner and Vocalist/Percussionist Jason Hammel as they played an enthusiastic selection from their catalog.
Kicking off their set with “Think Long,” fans near the front of the stage launched into a frenzy of dances, clearly excited to see their hometown favorites playing in such a small and intimate venue. Gardner and Hammel seemed to be having as much fun as their fans, smiling back and forth at one another as they played through more upbeat jams like “The Re-Arranger,” “Staring Contest,” and fan-favorite “Ha Ha.”
Slowing things down just a bit with newer track “Gonna Get It,” Gardner and Hammel showed off their impressive skills with their instruments. Despite using only a set of drums, a keyboard, and their voices, the duo managed to create a huge sounds to rival that of any four-piece. Since Mates of State were sharing the headlining spot with Rainer Maria, they still had plenty of their set left to go after “Goods,” “Hoarding It For Home,” and “My Only Offer.”
Then, the band took a quick break to talk about how happy they were to be playing with both Johnson and Rainer Maria again after having met on their first tour stop in Olympia, WA over a decade ago, but they quickly launched back into their set and kept fans bouncing along to “You Are Free,” “Like U Crazy,” and a cover of Daniel Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You in the End,” a song from Mates of State’s covers album, 2010’s Crushes.
The duo closed their set with the opening track from Mountaintops, “Palomino.” Fans clapped and sang along to this fun track, enjoying the last song of the band’s excellent set before it was time for Rainer Maria to grace the Ballroom’s tiny stage.
Though they began with “Broke Open World,” the opener from their excellent new LP, the crowd gave a warm reception and responded to the band’s renewed energy on stage. S/T (yes, it is called S/T, it is not self-titled) was only released two months ago, but fans were happily singing along to the slamming chorus of “Possession” and frenetic verses of “Lower Worlds.” The band seemed excited to be playing shows once again, particularly Fischer. She jumped, kicked, and screamed along to each song while keeping the band anchored with her frenzied guitar-playing, even during slower classic tracks like “Planetary,” from their 1999 album Look Now Look Again.
After “Planetary,” De Marrais’ kept the bassline going into “Broken Radio,” following the album’s track order and surprising the crowd. Then, Like Mates of State, the band took a moment to talk about the shared history between all of the acts on the night’s bill and tell a few funny stories before playing another older track, “Burn.” Then they kept the classics going with their beloved song “Thought I Was,” which had fans dancing and singing along through it before slowing it down a bit with new track “Blackbird.” With “Forest Mattress,” De Marrais’ incredible vocal range is shown to its full extent as she climbed from low verses to falsetto choruses with ease.
Ending on a high note, they closed with two more fan-favorite classics, “Artificial Light” and the frenetic “Ears Ring,” both of which had fans crowding around the cramped stage as they danced and sang along to the band’s final songs. They did come back for an encore, though, saying that they wished they had the time to plan a collaborative encore with Mates of State. That would have been incredible to see, but so was Rainer Maria’s performance of the slow and emotional “Rise.”
It was a perfect note to end the night on, and dedicated followers left the venue buzzing about what they had just seen. Hopefully Rainer Maria will keep touring and making new music, but for now, be sure to catch them as they finish off the rest of their tour with a final stop at Florida’s FEST 2017 at the end of October.
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