It’s been awhile since I’ve been to a live show (since seeing Glen Hansard on Valentine’s Day, specifically) but we all know that summer is the best time of year for concerts, so when I heard that The Mowgli’s were coming to town I immediately ordered tickets. After all, when I previously reviewed their new album I pegged it as the perfect summer kickoff album, so shouldn’t seeing them live have the same vibe? I hoped so, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. Made up of so many members that I had to check Wikipedia just to make sure I had everyone (Dave, Colin, Katie, Josh, Matthew, Spencer, and Andy, by the way) — these guys are definitely a live act I will be seeing again, despite a few disappointments about the show.
The Venue: The Majestic, Madison, WI
This was my first time at Madison’s Majestic Theatre, and as soon as we arrived I immediately regretted not attending shows there sooner. With just a 600 person capacity, even though we were able to get right up next to the stage it genuinely felt like there would have been no bad spot in the house. My only complaint was that as a broke freelancer I was not in the mood to spend $6 for a draft Spotted Cow, so we didn’t sample the drinks while we were there. The entire place was very clean and cozy and it was very easy to get to the restroom from even right up on the stage, so we will definitely be returning as soon as possible.
The Opener: Vinyl Theatre
As someone who has had the (dis)pleasure of being an opening act, I would be remiss not to mention that Vinyl Theatre was one of the better openers I’ve seen. At first glance it would be easy to discount the almost formulaic make-up of the all-male four piece: they seem to have collected the bro, the pretty boy lead singer, the intense keyboardist, the drummer who does his own thing, but despite seeming as if they’re pretty well slotted in with the very modern Lollapalooza/Coachella/Modern Alt-Rock circuit, they managed to stand out on their own and had all of us singing and dancing with them by the end of their set. While I think that they could benefit from a few songs with a more unique sound, they were certainly enjoyable to listen to while we waited for the main act and I happily poked around YouTube for more of their music when we got home.
The Main Event: The Mowgli’s
Real talk, the first thing I noticed when we got to the show was that I was completely surrounded by teenagers. So much so that when I asked the doorman if we were the only people over 21 he said “one of five” with a quasi-annoyed face, and I started think that maybe I was going to need a beer. It was a little too easy to get annoyed by the crowd: kids clearly still in high school talking about how they heard bands first, kids trying to look cool and not dance too much, kids taking selfies and snapchats and talking about how many band tanks they owned. I realized that despite enjoying bands like Foster the People, Fitz and the Tantrums, Walk the Moon, etc, this was my first time I had ever been to one of these shows, and it was going to be a very different atmosphere than I was used to…you know, as compared to seeing guys like Glen Hansard who have literally been making music for longer than some of these band members were even alive.
As soon as The Mowgli’s started up with “Kids In Love,” though, my fears were washed away. The crowd was great, despite my wondering where all these kids’ parents were and feeling very old everyone was very chill, very enthusiastic, and immediately into the music. We had nothing to worry about, and man, worrying about teenagers really is not very Mowgli’s of me, so I want to apologize for that right now. And, in fact, the show really made me think about how “Kids In Love” is really just about how kids will love anything with reckless abandon, which is really a philosophy we all should have. By the end of the night, I was ready to hug everyone around me, teenagers and twenty-somethings and everyone else.
So, with the music kicked off, I will admit that “Kids In Love” left a little something to be desired. I wasn’t sure if the band was just still getting used to the new track or if it was because this song feels like it’s in a weird key, but the weakness of it made me glad that we got it out of the way early. “Emily” followed and while it was a little bit stronger (helped in part by the audience shouting along at the appropriate moments) it wasn’t until “Bad Dream” that the band really seemed to fall into step for the night and the uncomfortably unpolished “Kids In Love” was long forgotten.
With a relatively small discography between two albums (pre-major label releases notwithstanding,) they managed to play most of my favorite songs. New tracks like “Whatever Forever,” “Love Me Anyway,” and “I’m Good” were astounding in a live atmosphere and “Clean Light” was everything I ever dreamed it would be. The new songs were so good, in fact, that by the time we got to “San Fransisco” as the closer this favorite hit was almost overshadowed by the previous songs, but it still played out exactly how I thought it might live: with a lot of dancing, singing along, shouting, and everyone around us having a really great time.
In something that I haven’t seen in awhile, the band only did one song as the encore, which was not unwelcome but a bit jarring after attending so many shows where the encore is usually at least three songs. “Leave It Up to Me” was a great way to close the show, but I think we all felt a little disappointed that it was the only song after the audience had been so enthusiastic and the band had been so into the show. We were all just so happy and ready to keep celebrating all night, even though that’s not always convenient. Ah, well.
Overall, we had a really good time, and we especially appreciated that the band was also selling merch to benefit yellowribbon.org to help further spread their message of peace and love. The show also felt at times like we were in the middle of a hippie concert of yore between the happiness and Katie’s beautiful tie-dye-esque dress and the general atmosphere, which was certainly not a bad thing. I think that The Mowgli’s are perhaps not the strongest band that I have seen live, but they command the stage in a very impressive way and make sure that everyone is enjoying themselves, which speaks louder than the music itself.
My rating of this show? Three peace signs and a hug. We will definitely be back to see The Mowgli’s again. If you’d like to check them out, they still have quite a few more stops on their tour, and we may or may not see them at Summerfest in Milwaukee in a few weeks!
Were you at last night’s Mowgli’s show? Have you seen them live elsewhere? I’m curious to hear what you thought in the comments! And peace and love to everyone. 🙂