Mating Ritual and Satchmode embody Los Angeles. Musically, aesthetically and creatively, the two bands channel the glitz and glamor that attracts swarms of bright-eyed dreamers and sun worshipers in the City of Angels. Donned in the classic SoCal bad-boy tight jeans, floral print pullovers, and moto jackets, the tour mates brought this L.A. swagger to the intimacy of White Eagle Saloon in Portland, Oregon, where they were supported by local indie folk band, Ezra Bell.
A dimly lit intimate masonry building better for first dates than head banging rock shows, the White Eagle has more dining room table tops than standing room space. It’s easy for the space to look empty or at the very least, lightly filled with an audience who prefer the comfort of their keisters. The bit of open floor in view of the stage served more as a thoroughfare to the restrooms and smoking patio than a place to soak in the experience, but that didn’t stop all three bands from playing as if in a crowded room.
Opening acts in Portland like Ezra Bell are used to this bare view as they wait for the city’s time-lax music fans to begin trickling in. Things might be different in Los Angeles, and the air grew tense around Satchmode and Mating Ritual as they watched Ezra Bell from their seats, anxiously hoping the room would fill. It didn’t.
Around Portland streets, Ezra Bell is known for the croon of vocalist Benjamin Wuamett and a light onstage humor that sometimes leaks into their songs. Both qualities were on display during their solid 20-minute set of breathy chamber folk. Joking about Kenny G’s saxophone garnered a few giggles, but the most came with a set finale, a funny ode to the pastime of hating Donald Trump. It was hard to make out anything other than his name and the chanted chorus of “Hey, Hey USA!” over the laughter of the audience, but the message was still heard, and it was a good way to lead into the next act.
There wasn’t much downtime before Satchmode took the stage with facial expressions lacking the everyday confidence of L.A. It could’ve been the drizzly Pacific northwest sky that turned their smiles upside down, the “bad breakup” theme of their songs or even the barrenness of the room, but the quiet demeanor amongst the quartet contradicted their Tumblr hipster aura. They perked up once they began playing, performing songs from their latest LP Love Hz (get it?). Blending a Future Islands sound with a Hall & Oates vibe on songs like “Don’t Give Up on Me” and “Never Gonna Take You Back” (not to mention the song “Hall & Oates”), frontman Gabe Donnay led the audience on a foray through the darker sides of love. A high note ended the set with an up-tempo, crowd pleasing cover of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears.
Though the audience steadily dwindled as the night continued, people still stuck around to see the bill’s main attraction Mating Ritual. Despite the smaller crowd, Mating Ritual, led by Ryan Lawhon, treated the performance like a sold out show. Riding on the high of band’s debut How You Gonna Stop It? Vol. I, they played the six-song album from start to finish. As the vocalist, Lawhon left little to no time between songs, only conversing with the audience to praise Portland and lightly brag about drinking non-bar provided beer in their van outside.
Despite the smaller crowd, Mating Ritual, led by Ryan Lawhon, treated the performance like a sold out show.
Lawhon quickly dished out the lyrics to album’s title track, impressing the audience with his fast paced delivery. Their execution of their indie dance tracks “American Muscle” and “Look the Other Way” got more people moving in their seats, but it wasn’t until the electronic post-punk hints in “Fake It” that they got out of them. Since Mating Ritual’s discography is in the early development stages their set wasn’t diverse enough to get a true feel for their potential, since How You Gonna Stop It? Vol. I is like a one trick pony of indie sounds. Onlookers shown interest, but not enough compared to the amount of energy the boys put into their set.
Compared to the more successful bills Mating Ritual and Satchmode probably play (or feel they deserve to play) back in Los Angeles, this show was likely considered a bust for them. A lot more promotion and a different venue could’ve brought a better audience. The locals present weren’t versed in the type of indie that comes out of L.A., but seemed to enjoy the sampler. But it’s no surprise that the love still went to local boys Ezra Bell.