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Concert Review: Mutual Benefit

Cassandra Zahran Cassandra Zahran Concert Review: Mutual BenefitPhoto via Emma Swysgood.
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You know that ending scene from How the Grinch Stole Christmas, where the Grinch realizes love does exist, after making the Who’s of Whoville experience such heartache? Mutual Benefit’s Love Crushing Diamond could’ve made the Grinch realize this far before he ruined Christmas. The band’s 2013 release is equipped with emotional guidance and support. It’s a polite dose of medicine to aid you through just about any hardship.

Lead vocals, guitarist and frontman, Jordan Lee, carries a very humbling and unique presence when on stage. Being small in stature, with gentle vocals and a shy first impression, this is the guy you want your kids to date. After seeing Mutual Benefit play in Chicago, Illinois at the 2014 Pitchfork Music Festival, it was apparent to how intimate and personal the band’s live shows are. The crowd was populated with hundreds of heat-exhausted attendees, whom either stumbled upon the band or planned their Sunday around the performance, all happily lost in the intangible sounds of the group. Mutual Benefit treated the festival-style show as if the four-piece and hundreds of guests were in their living room. With wind chimes, a drum kit and multiple jimbays as percussion, in addition to a violin and two guitars accompanying the vocals, the group created a vibrant correlation between instrumental texture, lyrics and vocals.

Having been on Stereogum’s “Bands to Watch,” and Pitchfork’s “Best New Music,” CD102.5FM and Promowest provided Columbus, Ohio with the “Mutual Benefit Experience.” The Basement was crowded with hugs, tears and self affirmations. The band began their set with a creeping, elongated inauguration, carefully introducing each instrument into their set, slow and steady. Like a gentle hum that puts you into a deep sleep and submerses you into a dreamlike-world, Mutual Benefit has expertly mastered their delicate, ethereal, dream-wave sound. Female vocalist and accordion player, Virginia, accompanied drummer, Dillon, in cuing a heavier backbeat towards the end of the intro, building the bridge towards the first track of the set. The romantic ambiance and european style erupted from Virginia’s accordion, building the texture of the instrumentation even more-so. With welcoming and emotional lyrics pouring from Jordan Lee’s mouth, the crowd resonated with just about every word clearly communicated by the vocalist. Love’s Crushing Diamond exposes the tremendous and terrible assets of love, finding yourself and finding your place in the world. “Sometimes my heart and brain conspire/to set everything on fire/ just to stop that tyranny/ of the minute hand on me,” a lyric painfully expressive and honest, the line feeling so personal and confidential, as if you were thinking of it yourself.

The percussion slowly began to pick up tempo as the set continued, complimenting the band’s energy with delicate aggression. Harmonies that were sweeter than milk and honey, Virginia and Jordan wore smiles from ear-to-ear the entirety of the performance– and like newborn babies, the crowd smiled right back. The bandmates exchanged hushed giggles and engaged with the friendly crowd on many occasions, having made a joke about “10% of this crowd having played with Mutual Benefit at one point or another.” Raised in Pickerington, Ohio, Jordan was playing his home-turf, and many  Columbus attendants felt honored to experience the band’s warmth and excitement while in Columbus. The crowd eagerly joined Jordan and Virginia on vocals, playing popular tracks “Advance Falconry,” “C.L. Rosarian,” and “Strong Swimmer.”

Jordan Lee wrote Love’s Crushing Diamond with zero intent towards gaining popularity. The record has a purpose, and it’s a purpose that lies personally with Jordan Lee, and his listeners. The critically acclaimed release is notably unique due to it’s cohesiveness as a whole, the tracks melting into one another. The individual songs exist beautifully when independent, although tend to stand more confidently and concise when in the company of the rest of the record. Like one of Jane Austen’s most romantic novels, Love’s Crushing Diamond reads like classic literature. Each track represents a chapter, and guides the listener through an emotional journey.

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