With a massive tour bus idling in the parking lot, a line of ticket holding fans waiting to get in and teams of roadies unloading gear into the club, you could’ve easily developed the impression that some giant rock star was in town. Yet Philadelphia post-hardcore band MewithoutYou still holds onto an unpretentious approach to their music and shows.
The hundreds of fans in attendance piled close to the stage, raving and wild as MewithoutYou took the stage at Greensboro’s Blind Tiger on Nov. 18. Though the height of their popularity ran primarily in the mid-2000s, their current [A à B] LIFE 15 Year Anniversary Tour has brought about a much-deserved resurgence of the band’s catalogue of music.
Though the opening acts for the night did their due diligence in warming up the crowd, as the soft blue lights shown down on the headliner’s signature wild flowers tied to their mic stands, all reserve was lost and youthful brays of cheering broke through the room.
MewithoutYou made a name for themselves by employing intricately technical guitar riffs with pounding, melodic drums thrashing below the strings, poetic, almost spoken-word lyrics and perhaps one of the most vibrant and eye-catching frontmen in contemporary rock music, Aaron Weiss. And 17 years since the band’s start, they proved just as tight and energetic as ever.
Lyricist and vocalist Aaron Weiss threw himself around the stage, brandishing a bouquet of wildflowers as he sang. The complexity of the band’s lyrics seemed to effortlessly bellow forth from Weiss, even as he leaned down into the outstretched hands of the crowd who lifted him up high over their heads in praise. Though many frontmen deliver a vivacious persona on stage, the pulsing energy that emanated from Weiss seemed to reach even to the patio in the back of the club, where smokers danced and sang right along with the music in the doorway. Weiss bears a certain electricity in his performances, not unlike that of perhaps a raving preacher before a mass of people at a tent revival.
Although most of the bands that are billed with the group remain firmly in the camp of hardcore and punk, MewithoutYou’s ability to move from beautiful, airy interludes to thrashing bursts of driving choruses sets them far apart from most other bands. With Weiss at the helm, spouting long passages of lyrics and psychotic waves of music exploding in the background, you can’t help but relinquish all attention to the stage.
Religious themes run throughout a lot of the band’s lyrics. Although they have been dubbed a Christian band, Aaron Weiss said in an interview with Busted Halo magazine that they don’t consider themselves Christian, rather just exploring a personal relationship with God. Both Aaron and his brother Michael who plays lead guitar, were raised Sufi Muslim. Such themes of a wrestling match of one’s identity and search for truth mirror the band’s free-range drumming and overall wildness on stage.
But even in such wild moments in their songs, the music is steered away from hardcore and metal, instead is elevated into the progressive, melodically driven beats that exist for only brief measures before cutting into new directions. Such passages give the feeling of chase, as if they are following the pattern of a fleeing hare.
This nonstop urgency draws you in, and you’re hooked. Each musician, a master of his instrument, moved and danced around the stage like it was his first show. The five musicians on stage looked lost in a world entirely their own; as if they were bards trying to explain some deep truth.
As the drummer began the beat for “Wolf Am I,” a track from their third album Brother, Sun, Weiss stood at the edge of the stage, his arms shaking and waving hawk-like as the wildflowers he held shed their petals over the crowd. The song’s lyrics are packed tightly together, but Weiss sang each word with sharp definition, as if he was truly sharing part of himself with the crowd reaching up to him.