I’ve seen Mean Creek before, but we haven’t met. Skype is not a form of human contact, which was how I was unofficially introduced to them during the process of creating a publicity piece. Essentially, their manager was letting me play grown up and threw me a bone. So one evening I sat up late, hid all the embarrassing objects in my immediate vicinity, and asked them trite little questions via webcam.
I was fairly sure they hated me, or they at least hated this. They feigned patience while swigging beers and oozing the urge to be creating songs, not wasting their time talking to some random girl. It was unnatural to say the least. I had put them in a situation where they were far removed from themselves, and it was palpable. Essentially, this was entirely awkward for everyone. That’s why I was honestly surprised when they extended the offer to allow me to attend a show in Boston.
Since I function almost entirely on curiosity, I wanted to find out how these creatures behave in their natural environment. So on December 9th, I found myself sweet talking a Boston cabby to get me to a show that had already started. At least 20 minutes late, I bolted up a flight of stairs at the back of the House of Blues, and ran straight out to Mean Creek’s fully functioning set.
Even with my misplaced timing, everything worked out perfectly because, well, they perform perfectly. First of all, they sounded great. Seriously, this isn’t someone’s basement show, this is the House of Blues, of course they’re going to sound amazing. That’s not completely what I mean, though. I’ve listened to plenty of Mean Creek, at home, on my exhausted computer. I’ve heard their songs before, and even enjoyed them. But seeing the songs in this setting was an entirely new experience.
I’ve become adjusted to watching bands feel compelled to climb over each other on stage. There’s generally a lot of grabbing, shoving, and invasions of personal space. On the other hand, the bands I’ve seen who don’t take this tactic can come off as disconnected, like the show is somehow interrupting better plans. However, that’s not Mean Creek.
The members of Mean Creek have been friends for years. I’m aware of this. Which is why I was so struck by the idea and the visualization that they are not entangled with each other. That seems almost impossible at this point in their music. Each member was playing their own show that night. It just so happened that they naturally all arrived at the same show.
Aurore seemed to be on a personal journey (that included almost wandering off stage completely). But I fell in love while watching her push on to her toes to sing into the mic, like those 3 extra inches were just what she needed to give to make it complete. Listening to her scream is exactly what I imagine it sounds like if you shot Crysta from “Fern Gully.” (I mean that in the best way possible. It’s a hot scream.)
On the other hand, Erik toed his own line, and declared a space that existed solely for himself and his instrument. If Mikey looked up from the drums, I didn’t see it, but he didn’t seem particularly lonely there. They both possessed a solitary focus that was not to be disturbed. This left Chris as the only direct connection to the outside world. A boundary he crossed as infrequently as possible, before stepping back into his vocals.
There was a comfort in their movement on stage that I was relieved to see. They naturally exist alongside their creations. Separate individuals who are perfectly united when they all make music. As though, if you removed any member from the stage, the others wouldn’t notice. You could be down to just one member left and you’d still be watching a damn good Mean Creek show.
I don’t care what the crowd was doing, and I don’t think the band noticed much either. They were there to create music, and that was the only focus, which in itself, is the heart of any show worth watching. There’s an ease that arrives with good music being played by those that created it from an innate space, as opposed to penning show-stoppers to sell to crowds. It’s an invitation to be welcomed into a natural environment otherwise reserved for Mean Creek alone.
Now let’s play a game called Find Mean Creek.