Mark Mulcahy & Mother Falcon @ The Echo, February 26, 2014

A Study in Opposites

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I saw Mark Mulcahy play with Polaris at the Pete & Pete reunion at the Orpheum Theatre in 2012. I count it as one of the most sublime music experiences of my life (See review here). His show at The Echo this Wednesday was just as transcendent (minus the pristine sound of the Orpheum). It was a generous set, his mighty trio, including the stalwart and versatile Ken Mauri and Henning Ohlenbusch on drums/keys and bass, respectively, plowed through the best of Miracle Legion (“Ladies From Town,” “Snacks and Candy,” “All For the Best”–a granted request), Polaris (“She is Staggering,” “Saturnine”), his solo work (“I Woke Up On the Mayflower,” “Bill Jocko,” “The Way She Really Is,” “In Pursuit of Your Happiness”), a handful of wonderful tunes from his latest album, and a sober rendition of Anita Ward’s disco classic “Ring My Bell.” What this man can evoke with just a few notes from an electric keyboard and his formidable voice is staggering. Each song is a world in itself and the band played them all brilliantly. Shame on The Echo for not properly promoting this show (or billing it–some fans were confused and panicked when they grabbed their phones to snap a pic of their hero’s name on the marquee only to be greeted by the silly moniker ‘Mother Falcon’.)

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Now I don’t normally write about opening bands unless they really impress me. Wednesday’s opener blew me away. Never before have I seen a band as pretentious as Mother Falcon.

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This “collective” of musicians took the stage out of a clown car. Just when you thought everyone was up there, another three or four musicians would stumble on. Guitars, drums, keyboard, saxophones, trumpet, cellos, violins, standup bass, banjo, accordion, bassoon (?!) Before they even started I knew what type of music to expect. I’ve seen this before. A late-night drama-kid party, a bunch of college-educated music and theater hipsters suddenly have a brilliant drunken epiphany: let’s start a band, be spontaneous and start a jam, where everyone will contribute to the song and it will be pure and honest and real. What issues forth is pure garbage. Someone beats off a noodly theme and the others begin to pile on while the drummer starts up that ridiculous epic-build beat that tries so hard to make you feel something profound but only if the music weren’t so utterly white and devoid of anything resembling soul…the collective heaves and swells, more like an ungainly albatross than a soaring falcon. Each song is an empty promise of clumsy foreplay that droops to nothing. Their ambition far outweighs their songwriting talents, but the crowd claps and cheers because, hey, they’ve got over ten people up there! When they sing it’s an indecipherable coo, or a choral scream, or an out of left-field chesty operatic tenor. It’s a mess–a disorienting mishmash of overly earnest humorless appalachian soundtrack burlesque that needs to be called bullshit on.

Young musicians take note from Mr. Mulcahy: less is more and make that little that you’ve got the best there is.

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Nick Cullen

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