I searched up Mogwai on Twitter before pulling into the Union Transfer parking lot, and read R5 Productions’ loving promotion of the group, asking fans to come out to witness the band “sonically annihilate everything”. As soon as I read that tweet, I knew I was in for an incredible evening. I had listened to Mogwai quite frequently prior, and I had always found it to be an enjoyable experience. Mogwai’s music has always kept an impeccable balance between ethereal and grounded. I found myself able to get lost in the airy guitar and synth pads while still capable of enjoying a standard drum and bass focused space-rock instrumental alongside it. I was drawn to Mogwai after they dropped their album Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will back in 2010. After listening to the record, I knew I was dealing with a group of incredibly talented musicians dedicated to creating absolute audio bliss.
Mogwai’s show this past Thursday night only confirmed my first impressions. From the get-go, the band amazed the audience with vast instrumental talent, playing music both from Rave Tapes, their latest album drop, and music spanning all the way back to their 1997 debut. Members of the band switched instruments in rapid succession, after what seemed like every song, displaying a great deal of talent at every instrument they picked up. The performance started off calm, beginning with Heard About You Last Night, and only built from there in terms of volume and visual spectacle. Mogwai’s backdrop, a recreation of their Rave Tapes album cover, slowly lit up more and more, and with help from complex fill lighting, created an extremely appealing visual to go with the incredible performance. Highlights included Cody, featuring Stuart Braithwaite on vocals, and How to Be a Werewolf, a track off Hardcore Will Never Die… that started off at a defined piano with only guitar and keys and slowly built over six minutes into a full-fledged post-rock anthem.
Overall, Mogwai is an almost spiritual sonic experience. I’ve attended myriad concerts, and never before has a band invested me in their musical and visual performance so greatly to the point of near sensory overload. A Mogwai concert is not the optimal experience for every concertgoer; never before has a band come so close to overloading my senses in under two hours. However, there is no doubt at all Mogwai puts on a rock concert for the ages, rivaling acts like Muse and U2 in audiovisual performance, but in a smaller, much more intimate setting.
Joining Mogwai on Thursday night was Majeure, the alias of Pittsburgh native A.E Paterra, who treated to the audience to a four-song set of synth and drum machine based space-rock, aptly described by Self Titled as “Disco music for paranoid androids”.
Mogwai | photo by Cameron Pollack