by Eric Sandy
Security Guy #1: You guys ready for some head-banging?!
Security Guy #2: Yeah! I've never heard these guys before.
Security Guy #3: You won't be head-banging. You will be doing a lot of spacing out, though.
That snippet of conversation took place stage-right just before Scottish post-rock band Mogwai began their set at the House of Blues. The crowd was comfortable, and travel throughout the oft-labyrinthine venue was easier than at most other shows. Majeure had just opened the evening's festivities, and we were all kind of in a trance.
And while not outright metal in nature, there would be head-banging as the night went on. Mogwai crushes skulls; know that.
Guitarist John Cummings leaned against the amps, back to the crowd, as the band started in on "Heard About You Last Night," the opening track off this year's Rave Tapes. He wasn't playing his guitar, nor even holding it. He leaned into the amp and cast a few looks at his mates. He never smiled.
And Cummings really wouldn't crack more than a grim smirk as the show went on (he picked up his guitar after the first tune died down and the band settled into "Friend of the Night"). Most of the guys in Mogwai project a monolithic vibe onstage. Dominic Aitchison, in particular, sets a detached gaze upon the crowd as he strums away at his bass.
That sort of mood works well with the barreling wall of sound that Mogwai often finds itself pushing up against. I mean, this band is loud. They tend to build up distorted energy, often on top of a minor-key piano melody, and leave the audience to deal with the consequences. In turn, everyone at the House of Blues last night seemed overjoyed at having their eardrums pummeled with washes of aggression and contemplation.
I admit to holding the crowd's demeanor against a band's performance too often. Thankfully, it seemed that last night everyone who was there really wanted to be there.
The setlist traded mostly in present-day fare ("Remurdered," "Deesh") and a nice array of songs culled from the past ("Batcat," "Mexican Grand Prix," "New Paths to Helicon, Pt. 1"). For some reason, whenever I see Mogwai I often miss particular songs I'm chasing by a few shows. Nevertheless, the set segued extremely well and the fine sense of symbiosis in the room kept everyone content. Singer/guitarist Stuart Braithwaite thanked the crowd quite graciously after each song.
Mogwai doesn't come around too often, and it's important to catch these overseas bands whenever possible. We all knew as much.
If you've never heard Mogwai before, do check this video. They didn't play "Mogwai Fear Satan" last night, but this remains the band's triumphant coup de grâce.