Pop! Pop Mew-sique!

Mew at the Belly Up Tavern, Solano Beach Ca- April 8, 2007

We all have a band that we would like to think is “our band”: we begrudgingly watch them rise to popularity, knowing that we knew them back when…before they blew up.  We want the world to know that WE knew them BEFORE they were cool, for no other reason than our own selfishness.  Mew strikes a similar chord with their fans, but not in that exact sense.  Mew fans WANT the band to become more popular.  We want Mew to be the biggest band in existence, because they deserve it more than any band around (and in my humble opinion, more so than any band in the last ten years).  For the last ten years, Mew has been successfully ruling Europe with their unique blend of indie/pop/”pretentious art rock”.  After touring with monumental bands, such as Sigur Ros and REM, Mew hit the states in search of their fame and fortune.  The first time I was lucky enough to catch them was when they performed at the San Diego Street Scene last year, to a less than capacity crowd.  Subsequently, I have caught them a few times in LA (one with the dreadful Kasabian); with similarly light, but ample, attendance. Acceptance has been slow for these fine gentlemen, but for those of us fortunate enough to see this band, it has been a life-changing experience. 


Getting the opportunity to witness this band is a treat within itself.  Aside from being a sonically amazing band, the group’s visual show is equally stunning.  An avid A/V-geek, singer Jonas Bjerre designed and implemented a brilliant display to accompany the band’s hypnotizing sound.  Basically, I was excited to see Mew.  Picking up Syd Nasty and Robbydair, we made the trip down to Solano Beach and arrived five hours early.  Scoring prime parking was easy enough, as the entire city was closed for Easter, save the venue and the adjoining restaurant.  Not finding anything suitable for vegan consumption (they did have a vegan option but it wasn’t on the list of favorites) the impeccably attractive young woman at the front suggested the vegan restaurant, Sipz.  Aside from the fact that she sent us down the wrong freeway and we ended up one mile from the Mexican Border, our dining experience was exemplary; Vegan sushi, Miso soup, barbecue chicken, and green tea ice cream filled me quite nicely… and, for once, didn’t drain my wallet!  After that we made our way back and parked our keisters at the entrance, waiting for it to open and let us in with the small group amassing in front of the venue.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I am extremely spoiled when it comes to concerts.  I have friends at most venues, know most of the bands that are playing, and pretty much allow myself free reign wherever I go.  But there is something different about Mew.  For a comparatively smaller band, they are the only band that has come around in the last ten or so years that has made me feel like they are out of my breadth of influence.  This is the only band I will wait outside in the cold for, clutching a poster, hoping to get a signature or a picture.  I’ve never done that, but if I did…it would be for Mew.  By now you can tell that I am very avid and biased fan, but I will keep this as even-keeled as possible for the sake of (hahah…here it comes…) literary integrity.  Once inside the venue, we bought our wealth of merch, placed it securely in the car, and grabbed a prime seat just off stage right.  The great thing about the Belly Up Tavern is, aside from the fact that you can go in and out and they have a great design team that makes great posters for all their shows, is that you can go anywhere in the venue and have a great view of the stage.  The tables are staggered on an ascending plane, so that even if the drunken asshole in front of you is standing while you’re quietly seated, watching Toots and the Maytalls, you still have a great view of the on-stage action.  But at a Mew concert you don’t sit, you dance! 

Openers Oh no! Oh my! were decent…but not memorable.  Their sound was interesting: a mixture of acoustic guitar driven, electro pop, with group vocals.  It reminded me of I’m from Barcelona, but without the delicious kitsch.  The one thing I took away from watching this band is the stark reminder that drummers should NOT come from behind the skins to sing; exceptions being Nirvana, Goldfinger, and Green Day.  A song about being a monster, spear-headed by the drummer from Oh no! pretty much turned me off to this band for the rest of their performance.  Thankfully their set ended soon thereafter.  For the next hour I stared at a dark haired beauty in a blue shirt without ever getting up the courage to approach her, and by the time I got the juevos- the lights went dim. 

Mew always amazes me: each member provides an essential part to the overwhelming whole.  Pounding drums, choppy/danceable guitar riffs, over soaring keys an soaring yet light vocals make this band the perfect combination of intelligent song writing and raw musical prowess.  Favorites such as “156”, “Zookeeper’s Boy”, “Snow Brigade”, and “Am I Wry? No” kept the audience dancing and very well entertained (I was singing in my boisterous yet atonal way for the entire set), proving that every song this band touches is (in its own way) a hit single.  Concurrently, the group had a large projector that displayed random yet poignant images throughout, so much that it’s beyond description.  After a well received performance and a few encore songs, the group’s epic closer, “Comforting Sounds”, was visually accompanied by violin playing cats, rabbits, and partially melted dolls moving across a lucid dreamscape and finally giving way to images that were reminiscent of the “…jump to lightspeed” sequences of the early Star Wars movies, followed by bursts of light and then darkness.

How this band has stayed under the communal radar of most of the American public is beyond me.  By all accounts, Mew should be the biggest band in existence.  Obviously their record label agrees me on the matter; Sony music, with a daft reputation for dropping bands that don’t instantly pass the million-mark, has hung on this diamond in hopes that their worldwide popularity catches on in the states.  Mew has endured a decade for a reason, and they’re only getting better.  Although I wish I could keep Mew all to myself and continue to see them at humbly attended shows in intimate venues, I know what the future holds for this band.  To my chagrin, and desire, Mew will soon be gracing larger venues to sold-out crowds… and never looking back.

Mark Johnston, a native Californian, has travelled the world with various circuses, sideshows, and arena rock tours. As a musical monkey he has delighted fans the world over. Upon his return, he has since founded the Atomsmashers Publishing Company, written 2 books in the company's Warm Horchata series, created a weekly comic strip based around LA's more "colorful" characters, written reviews, articles, and rantings under various pseudonyms; this has since culminated in Johnston being named Captain Fabulous by the Superhero Association of America.