HGMN Party with The Malah & Mantras - 3/28/09

The Malah & The Mantras perform at the HGMN party in Mebane, NC.

By: Chris Robie

It all started with the interview. The Malah was going to come to my house for a casual sit down and discuss what they've been up to. Then we came up with the idea of them doing an evening set in my living room and turning it into a private party. An interview followed by a performance at my house sounded pretty cool. Of Course my neighbors were going to complain about the loud music again but this time it wasn't going to be because we were playing Rock Band.

   It didn't take too long before the word got out. The "private party" became public knowledge real fast and I knew that my living room wasn't going to be big enough to host everyone wanting to attend. Mama Sherry, a co-worker of mine had a birthday coming up that same weekend. She usually hosted a bash at her place. Her property is pretty big and she's had bands perform out there before. People could even set up tents and stay overnight. It didn't take too long to convince her to move the private party to her place and make it into a HGMN/Birthday bash.

  So the date and place were set and things looked good to go. Since this was all taking place on a Saturday and we were expecting a bunch of people we decided that it might be a good idea to have another band perform. Since the property offered that small festival vibe and atmosphere it only seemed natural. First off, I must point out that The Malah was driving all the way from Greenville, SC. to perform for FREE! If we were going to have anyone open for them it would have to be the same deal. We're fortunate enough to have some really good local talent in the area, one of them being another HGMN member, The Mantras. A call was made and they were more than happy to come out to play and hang out with friends. I must also mention the guys up in Pittsburgh, PA., Euphonic Brew. These guys were willing to drive all the way to NC to play for free. Unfortunately, we felt that 2 bands were more than we could handle and we had to cut the music off by midnight. It still blows my mind that they were willing to do that.

   A few days before the event we got the bad news. Severe thunderstorms and a tornado watch were expected all day Saturday. Man, this really sucked. We were expecting a lot of people and many of them were arriving from out of state. Scrambling for ideas we managed to come up with several push tents, two large ones to set up for the music area and then the rest scattered around the property. We hoped for the best.

   The day of the party it seemed like the rain was coming in sideways. Everything was wet, muddy and there was a slight chill in the air. Things just didn't look good at all. I received an email from the Malah, that they were still coming, rain or shine. At the time I didn't know that they were seriously thinking about backing out. Who could blame them? It was a miserable 10 minute drive just from my house. They were driving all the way from SC. The Mantras were still good to go as well. Despite all the bad weather the HGMN party was going ahead as planned.

   I arrived at the party around 3PM. I wanted to get there early so we could get the interview out of the way. That was the original plan, to conduct an interview. The Mantras were scheduled to start at around 5:30. Obviously, nearly everyone bailed due to the weather. When I heard the news that the Malah were running late I seriously thought about leaving myself. The weather was so bad you had people huddled underneath the tents the whole time trying to keep dry. It was pretty miserable. And it was supposed to be like this until early the next day.

   The rain had slacked off a bit by the time The Mantras started their set. The Malah had also just arrived. Since The Malah was sharing their equipment with the Mantras the music didn't start until around 8PM or so. The crowd slowly began to make their way to the music tent and it was then I thought that the party had officially started.

   Atypical of The Mantras, they had to perform without vocals since they were sharing the Malah's equipment.  I was a little bummed just because I had yet to see these guys live. No one else seemed to mind, though. It was really good to see that everyone had a smile on their face. The vibes were pretty low up until now. The Mantras opened their set with 'Burgundy Evenings' followed by a Steve Kimock cover, '5B4 Funk'. They had a nice steady groove going and the crowd was loving it. I think it was during their song, 'The Word', when Mama Sherry came up to me and handed me a chocolate cookie. I was told to only eat half but I wasn't about to have it melt in my pocket so I just ate the whole thing. This would come back to haunt me later that night but we'll talk about that later. The crowd cheered when they broke out with the Zeppelin cover, 'Immigrant Song'. I'm not much of a Zeppelin fan so hearing it done without vocals was actually sort of a treat for me. They ended with 'Submersible Pump' and just like that their set was over. One of the guys in the band had to leave early so their time had to be cut short since things were running later than expected. I was just starting to find my groove with them. I guess I'm just going to have to go see them next time they play around here, get my full Mantras experience.

   As The Malah began to set up the rain, much to every one's surprise, had stopped. In the best possible way, it was around this time that the night took a turn for the strange. The vibe was pretty intimate and there were jars of crazy moonshine being passed around, amongst other things. It was really starting to feel like a festival setting, a really small one anyways. Everyone seemed to be a little more active and social now that they could roam around freely without getting wet. It was hard to believe that just a couple hours earlier everyone was wanting to go home. As I made my rounds, chatting with people, my head started to feel a little weird. I stayed clear of the moonshine... I realized then that there was no way an interview with the band was going to take place tonight.

   Everyone quickly made their way back inside the music tent as the Malah kicked things off with 'Lost Past'. It was a nice mellow introduction for what was to come later. The night was going to get really crazy. You could just feel the tent slowly starting to steam. Everyone was in that groove, and the groove was highly infectious. The trio is a very tight unit, solid in their technique and skill. Their music is an electronic tapestry of well structured songs and improvised jams. They do remind me a lot of early Lotus but their sound is a little more atmospheric, sort of like Telepath and STS9.  The next song was from their debut album, Voyage of Radiowaves, called 'Lonely Fire'.  The set list followed up with 'Up on this', 'Law of the Land', and 'Octhedron'. It was around this time when the band just hit that next level and turned the heat up on the fire. The song, 'Surrender', was absolutely off the hook! This was followed by an incredible 'Gemini', 'Sonar', and 'Jetstream'. The crowd was loving every minute of it. These guys were just "on" tonight. Sadly, the music had to come to an end. Closing out with 'Pines' the band called it a night. Everyone wanted more but out of respect for the neighbors the music had to end at midnight. The funny thing is just as The Malah was breaking down some neighbors appeared from out of nowhere and asked why the music had stopped. I guess Mama Sherry didn''t know that she had some cool neighbors.

   HUGE props to both bands for coming out and performing for free! The party could have gone really bad, mainly because of the weather, but both bands delivered and helped make for what was to be a fantastic night of music, good times, and very strange visuals. Please check these guys out! You're musical tastes will improve greatly. Unfortunately there are no pics for this event. The weather was so bad to begin with nobody thought to bring a camera. It's probably best it worked out that way. The scene was very intimate and nobody has to worry about any incriminating photo's floating around.

The Malah HGMN show is available Multi-tracked, fully digital!!! - http://www.archive.org/details/Malah2009-03-28