Norfolk, Va.-based rock band Mae played to a small but dedicated crowd at the Burger Bowl last Friday.
Despite the cold weather, the price was right for the three-piece group to attract an audience of around 200 excited concert-goers.
The band first made its mark with the 2003 release of Destination: Beautiful, a heartfelt work that had its start with frontman and vocalist Dave Elkins and drummer Jacob Marshall writing their first song in Marshall’s living room. Elkins states that while all the members of Mae are Christians, Mae is not a “Christian band.” Regardless of semantics, many of their songs reflect an innocent, whimsical sentimentality that is common in the Christian rock genre.
The Burger Bowl was a unique and effective venue for the group, as the outdoor performance provided for a kind of spacious intimacy to develop between the band and crowd. Though the large grassy area wouldn’t suggest it, the feeling of closeness was palpable. For a group whose name is an acronym for the awfully pretentious “Multi-sensory Aesthetic Experience,” there were few venues in the area more fitting.
Mae began their set with an instrumental to warm up the audience, though the audience didn’t seem to pay them too much attention.
Finally striking a chord with crowd favorite “Embers and Envelopes,” those in attendance became engrossed to the point of crowd surfing. The band kept up the energy for the remainder of the evening, with crowd surfing persisting even through the slower songs.
Near the end of the show, Elkins announced a new direction for the band next year, stating that Mae would write and release one new song online every month in 2009, with all compilation proceeds going to charity.
The audience overall seemed to receive Mae’s performance very graciously, with chants of “One more song!” lingering after the last set and many eager concert-goers clumping around the band’s merchandise table to buy their music and memorabilia.
Those looking for indie rock’s next big innovators were unlikely to find them here. As is often the case with bands afflicted with a chronic strain of emo DNA, Mae’s songs were full of uncreative rhymes and contrived guitar riffs, and Elkins at times came dangerously close to drawing the most serious of musical accusations: being too whiny.
However, that shouldn’t leave the impression that their performance didn’t make for an enjoyable time. With the relationship-oriented themes of Mae’s music, the band was clearly best appreciated with a significant other.
Indeed, there were several couples in the audience locked in arms while swaying to the melodies. Moreover, with surprisingly catchy numbers like “Just Let Go” that managed to evoke unyielding nostalgia without being mawkish or mushy, Mae’s developing talents could eventually coalesce into their emergence as more than just another niche rock band.
Overall, Mae was a good headliner that provided a night of quality music. Considering the price, there wasn’t a better way in the city for a music lover (and possibly a date) to spend the evening.