Mayer Hawthorne and the County, 10.14.11

I love this man. And his band.

That’s right, folks. Mayer Hawthorne has rendered me boring and redundant as a writer. Well, almost. I just warn you that this post might be super-gushy, so tread lightly, and please forgive me.

I saw this dude last year, at the same venue (Bimbo’s 365 Club), with the same friends, and I had a great time. And this time around was even better. I think my only complaint is that his 75-ish minute set was too short. I mean, yeah, it was too short and I’m a fan so I want it to go on forever, but that’s actually not a very long set. Two hours is the respectable set length, I think. But whining aside, Mayer Hawthorne really knows how to put on a show. He just sort of happened upon this whole fame thing, but instead of being bumbling and awkward, he’s got this natural charm and confidence about him that makes for a lively, adorable stage show. I do wish he’d interact with the audience more (READ: I definitely shouted out “GO TIGERS!!!” twice, expecting the Michigan native to give me some sort of reciprocation, but I got nothing. Weak.), because I think he could benefit from a little, as the comedians say, crowd work. He really is magnetic though, with his unabashed suburban skinny white boy good looks and his simple, clean, beautiful voice.

The new album, How Do You Do is a delight. You should buy it. But it’s even more worthwhile performed live. He and the County dropped several new tracks including “The Walk,” “A Long Time,” “Dreaming,” and my fave, “No Strings,” like they had been playing them for years. But to my surprise, they also went with several crowd-pleasers from A Strange Arrangement, despite the fact that this show was an album-release party for the sophomore record. “The Ills,” “Your Easy Lovin’ Ain’t Pleasin’ Nothin’,” “I Wish It Would Rain,” and my all-time fave, “Maybe So, Maybe No” got just as much love from the crowd as you’d expect. It was a constant state of soul music euphoria. To top it off, he also performed his rendition of “Love in Motion,” which he normally performs with Sebastian, as well as “I’ve Got A Crush on You” and Average White Band’s “Work To Do.” Solid night.

I may have said this before–and I’m too lazy to look and see if that’s true–but with all of the meaningless pop floating around, and all of the heavy-duty lyrics out there too, it’s so refreshing to have an artist like Mayer Hawthorne on the scene. His songs put a smile on your face so effortlessly because they’re good. Sure, he’s got the wordplay going (“You’re shaped like an hourglass / but I think your time’s up”) and the incredible Motown influence, but his music doesn’t stay on the surface or hit too deep. It’s at a balanced, manageable level. It can appeal to most people without being generic, because it’s so likable. And how can you not like this guy? He was wearing a red suit, for Christ’s sake.

What a ham!

Mayer Hawthorne, 11.11.10

If you know me, then you know I love a white boy who can sing with soul. And this dude is all over that. I attended this show—not concert—at the suggestion of my friend, a big MH fan, and one 75 minute set basically turned me into a long-term fan. Why? Because Mayer is from Michigan, baby!

I have a family connection to Michigan, which makes me a little biased, but I’ve noticed something about musicians from the mitten state. They respect and honor their state’s musical past more than any other state. Think about it. When I think of “California” music, I think of the Beach Boys. Yet basically none of the music that comes from California nowadays pays any small tribute to the surf sound. Granted, a shit-ton of music comes out of this huge state. But it’s so poppy and rappy and all over the place. There’s no singular voice. With Michigan artists, you feel the Motown oozing from every note because they were raised to respect that glorious sound. Mayer Hawthorne does exactly that. He’s got the up-beat and the doo-wop, but without trying to imitate his elders. He’s got his own modernized version of the sound, updated lyrics, slightly faster tempos for this generation’s style of dancing. It all works. And it’s not fancy. He’s a dude in a suit, and he just wants you to have a good time. Can’t complain about that. If you haven’t heard “Your Easy Lovin’ Ain’t Pleasin’ Nothin'” then you’re missing out. YouTube it.

The opener, Gordon Voidwell, was equally good at getting the audience to dance. He had the synth-falsetto thing going for him, and who knew that three people could make so much NOISE on stage? Damn. Anyway, I decided that this guy/his band are way better live than on records, because I guess techno/synth music is more meant to be partied to rather than sat-around-and-listened-to.

In any case, Bimbo’s was a great time on Thursday night. Intimate but not too intimate, classy but not too classy, appropriately priced, and a great distance from my apartment. Too bad I didn’t head down to Eve after the show to hear MH transform into DJ Haircut and blow everyone away with his spinning skills. Next time.