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6th Time’s a Charm!

Sunday, February 13th, 2005
Mourning September/Name Taken/Mae/Relient K
Cain’s Ballroom, Tulsa, OK

Upon entering this show, I noticed that Name Taken looked a whole lot like hometown favorites Mourning September. Ridiculously shaggy hair, tendency to wave arms while playing, same microphone crouch from the lead singer….yep, they looked just like Mourning September. The band then ended a song announced, “We’re Mourning September!” My indie-rock senses were pleased.

I didn’t know MS was playing at all- I had planned on seeing Name Taken, Mae, and Relient K. The boys from September were an added bonus, although they seemed a little off their game that night. They had a guest drummer with them, and he slowed all their tempos down a lot- “Running” felt more like walking, and “Glorietta” felt downright moribund. The vocals suffered from the slow tempos- used to singing the songs faster, the vocals were confused and tripping a bit. Overall, it was making a good use of a bad situation, and the crowd enjoyed their set immensely.

Name Taken is a punk band. They played with energy, melody, harmony, and I enjoyed their set. Nothing really stood out negatively, nothing really stood out positively. I hope they come back, cause they did show promise- it’s just that right now they’re rather blah.

The songs of Mae are very complex, featuring all sorts of keys in the mix of their airtight college-rock indie-pop. That being said, their sound transferred surprisingly well from CD to performance, as the keyboardist brought along 4 or 5 separate keyboards to make all the sounds heard on the album. Their energy was undeniable, as they burned through the favorites off their debut CD Destination: Beautiful. “Summertime” was especially great, as the piano was cranked up loud enough to actually hear (unlike on the album), which added a whole new aesthetic to the song. The thunderous “All Deliberate Speed” got the audience riled up, while “This Time Is the Last Time” really took the cake on emotive rock for the set. When you’ve got 3 minutes to build up to a scream, you can make the most of it- which is what Mae did. They closed with the rocking “Soundtrack to Our Movie”, which was beautiful, energetic, heavy, and awesome all at the same time- which is awesome for any band.

I’ve seen Relient K five times already, from 2002 to now. This tour is the first in which band leader Matt Thiessen has seen fit to bring along a piano. It makes sense, as half the songs on their latest album mmhmm feature piano to some extent, and about 1/3rd of their previous release Two Lefts Don’t Make A Right, But Three Do also uses the ivories. So, to some fans, this was a sign of the end of RK’s true punk beginnings; to others, it was a glorious occasion that has been long waited for.

But the anti-piano kids were wrong. Relient K still rocks. From the second they got on stage, they put out a show so completely full of energy, power, poise, and style that it rivals ‘true’ punk bands. And when you can play a banjo in a punk set without going punkabilly (as they did in the crowd-leveling “Which to Bury, Us or the Hatchet?”), you know that you’re onto something.

From the opening chords of  “More that Useless”, they slammed through their strongest songs off of mmhmm with an unabashed gusto. Matt Thiessen, who was sick yet again (he often has vocal problems in Oklahoma- screw the stupid weather here), managed to switch between guitar and piano with no problem at all- even doing it several times per song, as he did on the stellar version of “High of 75”, the you-knew-it-was-coming “Be My Escape”, and the night-finishing “I So Hate Consequences”. The album-highlight “…Consequences” capped off an amazing performance, as the passion with which the band played was unrivaled. The audience screamed along, and the pure frustration, anger, and hopelessness of the song filled the room. It was infectious- and if that song never ended, I don’t think that anyone would have cared. The power that they set forth in the epic “…Consequences” even canceled out the fact that they didn’t play their hit “Pressing On”. But when Thiessen and company scream, you know they put it in there on purpose- and you know that there’s a catharsis going on, little by little.

It was awesome, no doubt about it- Relient K knows how to play a rock song, and they know how to turn a pop song, and they know how to work an audience. This show was the best I’ve ever seen them, and here’s to hoping they never slow down. Yes, here’s to those banjo-toting, piano-playing, sickly-voiced punks that know a little too much about growing up.