Mild High Club
September 28th, 2016 at the Middle East
By: Becca Montante
Mild High Club brought an atmosphere to the Middle East Upstairs on a Wednesday night that was, in one word, chill. The very small standing room-only crowd of mostly college students and twenty to thirty somethings milled around waiting patiently for the band to set up. Alex Brettin, frontman of the group, did not enter with grand gesturing, letting subtlety rule the tone of the night – observant fans would notice the nod his khaki trench coat and hat gave to Zack Goulet’s artwork for the ‘Skiptracing’ album cover. It was a concert where music took precedence — there was no pressure to force your way to the front, whipping out earplugs in order to avoid a screaming competition with other concertgoers or to take the best picture of the night – in fact there wasn’t a single iPhone in sight. The best thing to do was just stand and let the music wash over you. Calm and collected, the band almost appeared to be producing such a brilliant sound too effortlessly.
Their opener, the fitting “Club Intro”, was a perfect kickoff that had more upbeat songs like “Undeniable” and “Tesselation”, which were also met with enthusiasm by the crowd as soon as the beat kicked in. But, just as much as these songs helped liven up the mellow atmosphere, there was nothing boring about slower tunes like “Weeping Willow”, on which the guitar which sounded even more hypnotizing and ethereal in person than its recorded counterpart. Perhaps what struck me the most was hearing Brettin’s vocals, unfiltered. His unique, layered vocal sound on the record seems to rely heavily on effects but his natural voice proved otherwise. The set list was a pretty even mix of material from their newer album ‘Skiptracing’ and their older ‘Timeline’ material, with the band never straying too far from the original version of the songs, besides to throw in a funky interlude or an extended guitar ending to “The Chat.” Brettin kept the mood light and never too serious, throwing in quips between songs, even giving a shout out to Berklee College of Music students. While the show length was initially disappointing, as the band only played for an hour, it actually felt more succinct and poignant. For those unacquainted with the music, it is easy to imagine that after a while, a lot of the songs would start to sound similar and blend together. Towards the end, the band threw in “You and Me”, Brettin dedicating the track to “all you boyfriends and girlfriends or lovers or whatever you call it”, as well as a super smooth cover of Roy Ayers’ “Everbody Loves the Sunshine.” As the show ended and the lights came up, Brettin set his guitar down and kneeled on the stage, talking to anyone who walked up. He signed a record, shook hands, and received sputtered words of admiration with genuine modesty. Hopefully the next time they return it will be to the larger audience their sound deserves.