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Why I canít live without mewithoutyou

By Sean Smith

Fort Wayne Reader

2006-09-18


My first experience with mewithoutyou (mwy) was earlier this decade. Some friends of ours had a death in the family and at the viewing I kicked up a conversation with a youth minister. We talked about some cool bands (Dashboard Confessional, Pedro the Lion, Coolhandluke) and then mentioned that the kids he ministered to were going to Cornerstone. When I told him I had been there in the mid 90s, he invited me along.

Itís true what they say about Cornerstone ó itís the Christian (believer) Woodstock, tents set up and a makeshift little village with places to eat and a general store and a small lake. Itís a good time, but that year it felt like an oven; the ground was scorched and every step kicked up dust and dry sand. I was anxious to catch a set by this band ďmwyĒ that no one in attendance would say anything about other than "they are the best band in the world" or "you canít even believe these guys.Ē Since Iíd only ever heard that said about REM I was a bit skeptical but decided that I should check them out.

So I headed over to the show with the group of kids that I could tolerate in the cavalcade I came with and found a mini-riser and lots of amps among a clearing of trees off to the side of one of the paths. Five guys with short hair wearing nothing interesting were checking their instruments. I remember thinking, in my best indie rock tone, ďWell, I certainly hope the music is worthwhile because they all look on the edge of boring.Ē

The guys seemed satisfied enough with the sounds they were getting and decided the generator they were using would give enough juice to play at least fifteen minutes.

And behold - the rumors were true. These guys were in complete control even when it seemed otherwise. They spun both themselves around with an abandon that only my fatherís generation was lucky enough to see. This was the stuff he had ignored and I felt like I was taking it in for the both of us. I was witnessing everything that I had read about and seen in grainy detail on late night television and MTV. It was the exact reason I had come in the first place ó a holy experience.

The tunes were incredible for yet another reason, because no matter how many brilliant singers came and went in my dadís bygone era, none of them could come close to the enigmatic figure that was a mere two feet from me. Lead singer/lyricist Aaron Weiss was twisting and writhing while the next moment he dropped to the dry earth like a sack of heavy things, screaming his very soul for the love of his life to recognize him.

The next day I witnessed this majestic mayhem while they played a proper stage. The stage was adorned with rose bouquets and potted plants; two songs in and the roses were a massacre of petals and the dirt from the plants became a carpet over the stage. And there the singer went with those drunken acrobatic moves, all the while never missing a syllable, let alone a word. The hardest thing Iíve ever had to do in life was algebra, but at that moment x+y=z became easier than breathing. The new difficulty became finding an honest description of this brilliant lyricist I was witnessing on stage.

Just a week after arriving home I learned that mewithoutyou were going to be playing a small church in the neighborhood. By this time I had managed to get hold of their debut full length album a ---> b life. I listened to it over and over and was certain that if I had purchased a cassette version the tape would have long given out.

One song in particular struck me like a slap across the face. It seemed familiar, but so did every other song on the album. Now that I had the lyrics in front of me I was taken back to when I was dating a beautiful young lady name Jessica. She was the prettiest girl Iíd ever met at that young age (eighteen). Itís all cliche poetry, but damn if it wasnít the truth. She was the girl of my dreams and she was soon mine, and with her loyalty came anxiety and fear ... things got really ugly and mean.

But it was all there in that song I heard mewithoutyou play the first time I saw them: ďI said Iíd not come back/well Iím coming back and youíd better be alone!Ē

She wasnít and I saw to it to twist it into something ugly and decadent and foolish because of my ego. Foolish ideas make for foolish men, and I still have the oversized dunce cap to prove it. It was my hard lesson to learn and the homework is still keeping me up nights. I had every intention of letting Aaron know just how that song made me feel when I saw him at that small church, and I did.

Iíve not seen mewithoutyou live since, save for an all too brief performance at the Emerson sometime last year. Their songs will always be romantic ballads, no matter how loud or fast they are played, every song a love song.


(mewithoutyous new album 'brother sister' will be released 9.26.06 on tooth and nail records)

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