Sunday, January 5, 2014

Mayer Hawthorne @ The Union Transfer - Philadelphia, PA 04/18/2012

This is a typical musical discovery for me.  Let me set the scene for you.

- After Midnight
- Backyard Tiki Bar
- A Night of Drinking with Friends
- Spotify

A friend and I were taking turns choosing songs on Spotify.  We were discussing top 5 artists and we had two in common.  Whiskeytown and Neutral Milk Hotel.  But then he hit me with a curveball.  He asked if I had heard of Mayer Hawthorne.  I was a little puzzled.  I had not.  He told me that he had recently seen him at a cool, small venue in North Philadelphia called Johnny Brenda's.  He told me about this brilliant concert full of music that was a throwback to Motown.

Motown?  This I was not expecting.  Especially from a friend who is grounded in Hip-Hop and 90's College Alternative.  That is because Mayer Hawthorne is really Andrew Cohen (Mayer Hawthorne is his Porn Star name - Middle name and the street he grew up on).  Andrew Cohen is also known as Haircut who is a multi-instrumentalist Rapper and DJ from Detroit.

As a DJ he was sampling the heavy influence of his hometown music and was tired of the royalties.  He decided to record his own Motown inspired music so that he could sample that.  His recordings fell into the hands of the president of Stones Throw Records, Peanut Butter Wolf.  He quickly said the he's not doing the DJ thing anymore.  He is recording more of this.

My friend then played me a song by Mayer Hawthorne.  Your Easy Lovin' Ain't Pleasin' Nothin.

This song is everything that I love and miss about the Motown sound.  It's fun.  It's classic yet fresh.  And you can't help but to move yourself to it.  This is a sound I had to explore some more.

The next day I cued up this album on the way to work.

Now this happens quite often when I quickly love a song so much.  I am disappointed with the rest of the album.  This is an obstacale that I have to over come quite often.  I fell in love with the most upbeat song on the album.  Forunately, I know this about myself and I did not give up on this album.  I arriveved at work and I listened again.  This time it was a little bit catchier.  I listened a third time on the way home from work.  This time is was sinking in.  Maybe it was my my state of mind but this time I was drawn to the more mellow, soothing, soulful sound of Motown.  I just found myself my new flavor of the month.

I listened to this album quite often.  Each time I fell in love with a new song.  The next song I fell in love with was 'The Ills'.

At this point Mayer Hawthorne had a new album ready for release and tour dates were starting to be announced.  Mayer was going to play the Union Transfer in Philadelphia.  Prior to being the Union Transfer this space was a Spaghetti Warehouse.  It was taken over by R5 Productions which is owned by Sean Agnew.  Sean, a long time promoter, was recently voted one of the top 10 people in Philadelphia.  Sean believes that the average college student should be able to afford to see their favorite artist.  My ticket for Mayer Hawthorne was $15.

In preperations for the show I began to listen to Mayer's newly released 'How Do You Do'.  For this release Mayer moved from the Motown sound to Philly Soul. 

I took to this release right away.  There are some great songs that stood out immediately.  Songs like 'The Walk' and 'Dreaming'

I was getting more and more excite for this show.  Finally, the night arrived.  The first things that I noticed about Union Transer was the easy, affodable parking on site and also the killer beer selection.  I grabbed a Purple Haze and a spot at the front of the balcony and got ready for the show. 

The opening act were the Stepkids.  Which are a psychedelic soul band out of CT.

They had a very trippy backdrop that would change images throughout the show like paint dripping over the band.  I enjoyed them enough to check them out the next day on Spotify.

Next up was Mayer Hawthorne and the County.  While we waited I was extremely impressed with the pre-show music.  I kept using Shazam to identify the songs.  We were treated to two bands that I now play regularly.

When the band finally came on the crowd was on fire.  And it was a packed house. The acoustics were great for a venue that was not built to be a concert hall and there was not a bad view in the place.  

As a multi-instrumentalist  Mayer recorded all of the instruments to A Strange Arrangement himself.  What I was most impressed by was the musicianship of his band.  Although I did not record any video there is plenty available on YouTube.

He surrounded himself with good people.  Especially the bass player.   The Band helped me realize new favorite song from A Strange Arrangement.  A new, funkier version of Green Eyed Love.  It was hot...and sexual with a killer guitar solo at the end.


This version is available on the Stones Throw release Mayer Hawthorne and The County - Direct to Disc. This is a studio session with an audience recorded in one take and only released on vinyl.

About halfway through the concert Mayer stopped the show.  He was getting a little tired of all the phones snapping photos so he made a deal with us.  They would pose for photos and we could take all that we wanted.  But then the phones were to get put away for the rest of the show.

He then took a photo of him and the crowd.  He does this at every show and posts them to his Facebook page.

I knew the show would eventually end.  But I didn't want it too.  It was a fresh take on an old style of music.  One that I loved and the the music scene missed.  It was upbeat, danceable, and very sexual.  Mayer even commented during the show that most of his songs are love songs with the exception of one...which is plainly just about sex.

This is a show worth seeing my friends so go buy your tickets.  He is currently on tour supporting his new album Where Does This Door Go which is more of a tribute to 80's funk with big time producers like Pharrell.

It is not my favorite album of his but it has grown on me. In the right mood it has some good moments.  But I still like his Philly Soul era the best.  So until the next review I leave you with this clip from his appearance on Live at Daryl's House with Booker T. 

See you at the next show!


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