MuteMath has come a long way since that Knitting Factory show. They’re sounding fresh, energetic, and their vital signs are good




MuteMath – Terminal 5 – NYC March 23, 2016 

Usually  words like vitals and terminal make people a little nervous – but when it’s all about MuteMath’s new album, Vitals, and New York City’s Terminal 5 it’s nothing but good news – especially for fans of the hard-to pigeonhole quartet that some describe as synth-driven indie-pop. With origins in New Orleans, the boys still seem pretty much at home returning to this city where, a little over a decade back, they introduced their unique sound to a small audience in Tribeca’s original Knitting Factory. Terminal 5 is a much larger venue, hosting MuteMath’s biggest NYC concert as headliners (according to front-man Paul Meany). Certainly, Terminal 5 could contain many Knitting Factories, with its large floor-space and two balconies. That this concert space resides in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood (you know – where Daredevil hangs out) is somehow appropriate, since these guys cook up a pretty hot show, featuring dazzling lights, loud music, crowd-surfing and, yes – an inflatable raft containing the lead singer, being propelled along waves of concert-goers.

Paul Meany (vocals, keyboard), Darren King (drums), Roy Mitchell-Cardenas (guitar, bass, drums and back-up vocals) and Todd Gummerman (keyboards, guitar, and back-up vocals) played songs from their current album, Vitals, as well as crowd-pleasers from their back-catalog.

The well-received opening act, Paper Route, delivered a sturdy set of indie-rock that left the audience satisfied but ready for the onslaught of audio/visual intoxication that only MuteMath can produce. It was unusually balmy outside, but inside Terminal 5 the air was charged with excitement as the lights dimmed, and the crowd braced themselves…

MuteMath’s atmospheric opening song “Stratosphere,” from Vitals, opened the show, followed by the power-packed “Chaos,” from the band’s self-titled project. Even with more than a decade separating the two songs, they’re clearly signature sounds that help define what this band is all about. The fans are dedicated, enthusiastic, and well-versed in the nuances of the music and the stage show. Many of the people in attendance have followed the band from the beginning, never tiring of the experience, always hoping for the expected contact with Meany, who is known to abandon the stage in favor of navigating the crowd, knowing they’re primed to immerse themselves into a visceral concert experience. There aren’t many bands that connect to an audience the way that MuteMath does, and the Terminal 5 show was no exception.

The charismatic Meany is an exceptional singer (using his falsetto more and more these days) as well as a dynamic stage presence, equally at home dancing with and around a mike stand as he is sitting at (or standing at, or on, or jumping over) the keyboard. He dances as if it would hurt him not to, totally uncontrived – a projection of his passion about the music. And yes, the keytar and Atari are still parts of his arsenal.

Darren King is ebullient on the drums. Not simply keeping time, King’s patterns and fills are textures that help define the songs. Once the headphones are duct-taped on (yes, he still uses the duct-tape), the mesmerizing percussion show that is Darren King never pauses or fades into the background. King’s dynamic playing is all about tension and explosive expression, and yet he can become almost trance-like when the playing calls for machine-like precision.

Roy Mitchell-Cardenas, now as much the guitarist as the bass player in MuteMath, is a fascinating study of meticulousness and technique combined with funk. Playing guitar in a percussive, African-techno style, he often sets up the newer songs – especially the instrumentals – by laying down irresistibly funky patterns, always experimenting, always tweaking the sound until he gets exactly what he wants. On songs like “Blood Pressure,” Roy shows a more aggressive attack, using powerful strokes and strums to evoke the more visceral soul of the Odd Soul album. Of course, his bass work – on “Armistice,” for example – is, as always, stunning.

The band’s newest member, Todd Gummerman, is a jack of all trades, playing various keyboards, singing harmony, filling-in on synth-bass where needed, and playing guitar. If George was ‘the quiet Beatle,’ Todd might be ‘the quiet MuteMath guy’ …or whatever that would equate to. Todd is a musician’s musician, enormously talented and with a solid stage presence. Since playing with the band from the Odd Soul tour, Todd has begun to put his own signature on some of the older material (his keyboard work on “Reset,” for example, was particularly strong) and his contribution continues to grow.

MuteMath has come a long way since that Knitting Factory show. They’re sounding fresh, energetic, and their vital signs are good. Terminal? Not these guys.

Opening for MuteMath was Paper Route.

- Bert Saraco (words and pictures)

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