mewithoutYou - live in Cambridge (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


live in Cambridge (2018)

live show

It was right at midnight that mewithoutYou’s latest album, an untitled affair, was set to drop. For this headlining tour in support of it, they brought out Hurry (who I missed, unfortunately), and in the spirit of one of their more experimental albums to date: the truly strange, long-running avant-garde indie rockers Joan of Arc.

I would wager that I have the same opinion of Tim Kinsella’s musical vehicles as most other emoheads aged somewhere between twenty- and thirtysomething. Cap’n Jazz? Great. Owls? Good stuff. Most of the other projects? Could take ‘em or leave ‘em. But Joan of Arc? Sigh; it’s just not for me, man. I will say, however, that I could appreciate them live (and this was my first live experience of them) just for the sheer absurdity of it. They’re more entertaining than most other random and mediocre openers. Kinsella’s dance moves and ridiculous lyrics (“Pizza and cunnilingus both give me heartburn”) are pretty insane, while the music can be...occasionally good, like one song that was more straightforward ‘90s emo in the vein of what Kinsella is truly beloved for. On the opener, their bassist used a tape recorder to capture the output of one of the amps, probably to loop or play back later on (didn’t catch him doing that specifically). Songs they played included “Explain Yourselves #2”, “Staying Alive and Lovelessness”, the weirdo electronic one “Smooshed That Cocoon”, “Shown and Told”, the aforementioned “This Must Be the Placenta”, and...their closer which may or may not be called “Thank You, Sorry” (appropriately titled if so).

The set everyone was certainly waiting for finally came at 11:00 p.m., with mewithoutYou coming out and wasting no time playing the new stuff. They walked out onto the stage and built up the perfectly anticipatory intro of it before launching fully into “9:27a.m., 7/29”, the aggressive opener of their new album. They played a healthy amount of the new untitled LP, like

“2,459 Miles” and its super dense second half, and “Another Head for Hydra” with that cathartic refrain of frontman Aaron Weiss shouting “Have I made myself? And myself clear?” The new stuff sounded good; it’s actually a bit more difficult and experimental than the band’s usual style, certainly. There’s very subtle hints of sludginess and mathy noise rock that give their sound even more nuance than usual.

The band seemed to be in good spirits and had all their usual intraband camaraderie and energy. While they were sure to have some fun themselves playing plenty of new material, fans got plenty of old favorites too: earlier 2010s standouts like “D-Minor” and “February, 1878”, as well as the wonderful deeper cut “Paper Hanger”, their epic “In a Sweater Poorly Knit”, and a surprising encore kickoff of “January 1979” in which the crowd, already very receptive and warm throughout the set, basically exploded. And then threw another curveball by closing the show with “Bethlehem, WV”, a track from their surprise-released and more subdued, untitled EP from a couple months ago.

It was already some time ago that mewithoutYou cemented themselves as one of the best acts of pretty much the entire punk music subculture of...well, the last 20 years at this point. A new album that actually combines the best of what they do with even more forward-thinking experimentation really only emphasizes it.

Set list (11:00-11:59):

  1. 9:27a.m., 7/29

  2. D-Minor

  3. Another Head for Hydra

  4. February, 1878

  5. The Dryness and the Rain


  6. Winter Solstice


  7. Julia (or, ‘Holy to the LORD’ on the Bells of Horses)

  8. Mexican War Streets

  9. Paper Hanger

  10. 2,459 Miles


  11. O, Porcupine

  12. [dormouse sighs]

  13. In a Sweater Poorly Knit

  14. Flee, Thou Matadors!

  15. outro

    Encore (12:00-12:08):

  16. January 1979

  17. Bethlehem, WV