“The first few times we played in Cleveland, it was Hecklesville, USA,” mewithoutYou’s leading man proclaimed halfway through their set. Six or seven years later, a lot has changed for Aaron Weiss and his bandmates. The Philadelphia-based band played to a sold-out Grog Shop crowd last night. It was the kind of audience where fans barely speak and very rarely turn their heads away from the band.
Prog rockers The Dear Hunter opened the show with dark, moody atmospherics. Casey Crescenzo belted anthemic choruses over a wash of reverb-laden guitar and sparkling keyboards. When the five-piece outfit was at its best, Crescenzo’s songs sounded like Coldplay’s next big hit – melodic, grand, and arena-sized. Yet the band proved that it doesn’t need to hide behind twinkling instruments to widen eyes. All five guys harmonized on “Sun,” a stripped-down tune with guitar noodling and a gentle folk vibe. The Dear Hunter’s songs flowed from one to the next, transitioning well into the night’s main event.
mewithoutYou has a unique way of doing things. The band’s melodies center around Greg Jehanian’s bass guitar and drummer Richard Mazzotta’s distinctive percussion. Both guitar parts are atmospheric, letting rhythm take over as the driving force of the music. The fans know it – “Torches Together” incited wild clapping to Mazzotta’s strange time signatures and heads bobbed in beat with “The Dryness and the Rain.” Weiss sings/yells/speaks/shouts (honestly, his vocals are a clusterfuck of every different style I’ve ever heard) along with the throbbing beat. He lunged across the stage manically, throwing flowers a fan gave him and even breaking out an accordion for a few songs. mewithoutYou is a great departure from the traditional band structure of guitar-driven rock. Cleveland’s gonna have to find someone else to heckle.