Mates of State @ The Tractor Tavern
January 21, 2015
Words by Stephanie Dore
Photos by Sunny Martini
There’s a certain level of compatibility that bandmates have with each other, and then there’s Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel of the ever-impressive Mates of State, who maintained an almost overly cute level of eye-contact, shared grins and teasing banter throughout their show. And after nearly two decades together, both professionally and personally, this married couple doesn’t look to be losing chemistry anytime soon.
The packed house at Ballard’s Tractor Tavern was a perfect venue for their indie-rock vibe and the band gave everyone exactly what they came looking for, including the requisite twelfth-man shout out. With a new album in the works for release in May (it’s been four years since their last full-length Mountaintops) they even gave us a few new songs to gestate over, albeit with a couple of forgivable restarts.
Opening the show with an energetic drum duet at center stage, Gardner and Hammel shared a hefty tracklist of their catalogue with the crowd, playing for just over an hour. Leaning heavily on their earlier albums, “Palomino” from Mountaintops almost felt like they were throwing a slick bone to newer fans. The catchy, lovelorn and world-weary lyrics they’re known for had most folks singing along, but even those who might not have been familiar with everything on the set list seemed perfectly willing to play along with the charged performance.
Their live set seems more raw and complex than their recordings might come off and it’s definitely not a bad thing. Mates’ infectious enthusiasm, abundant harmonies, and lush arrangements make for a show that is uniquely enjoyable, especially if you happen to catch their conspiratorial gaze. Their impressive musicianship for lack of a backup band is pretty incredible. You get the feeling that they work hard, love what they do, and at the same time, don’t take themselves too seriously. A recipe for success.
If you haven’t seen them live yet, now is the perfect time to catch them, as they’re going coast-to-coast. Find a show here http://matesofstate.com/shows.