Live Review

Jared & The Mill Turned out Quite The Crowd at Mercury Lounge

Jared & The Mill on September 1, 2016

Photo credit: Kira Grunenberg

 Imagine growing up in the heart of Phoenix, Arizona. Classic southwest U.S., dry heat, lots of sun, and temperatures that frequently visit the triple digits. That's where the gentlemen of Jared & The Mill call home.

Right at this moment however, the five man, self-described "western indie rock" band is making their home in a van on the road, during their massive “Keep Me Going” tour across the country, which began in early August. Not quite at the actual end of the week, but getting ready to embrace it, Jared & The Mill made their most recent tour stop in New York City's beloved Mercury Lounge – a long ways travel from the band's stomping grounds – only to be greeted with an equally contrasting extreme downpour in the few hours before doors opened. Kicking off the first show of the new month, with only eight days until the release of Orme Dugas (independent, 2016), the band's newest EP, one might believe this Thursday night gig – in a city not particularly known for its love of things country, western, or cowboy – would be a tough sell for the Phoenix bunch. This was not the case however, as fans came to form a noticeable crowd outside the venue, just the same as fans would for any established Brooklyn indie act.

Leading up to what would be Jared & The Mill's widely diverse 14 song set, their tour mates Edison, an alternative folk band out of Denver, CO, filled the lounge with energy that never ebbed the whole night over both sets, once that first note rang. A trio that breaks away from the average folk band sound structure with the likes of legato trumpet parts (“Water in the Well”), floor tom and kick heavy percussion (“Ghosts”), and finger style guitar that rivals classical methodology (“Idea 5”), Sarah Slaton, Dustin Morris, and Maxwell Hughes primarily played an assortment of cuts from their forthcoming full length album, Familiar Spirit (Rhyme and Reason Records, 2016), which actually is due for release exactly one week following Orme Dugas, on September 16. Combine the dual excuse for celebration with Edison's predisposition for lots of stage movement, highly emotive expressions, and a slightly sarcastic but always friendly push to remove the space between themselves and the audience and it's no wonder Edison work so well as tour partners to Jared & The Mill.

It's uncanny, though their musical styles and final resulting songs are vastly different in character, how much Jared & The Mill and Edison do align with one another where their live performances are concerned; a sense that became more noticeable as the night wore on. The subtle, lone guitar playing the minor-oriented, very wild west-like motif of Orme Dugas cut, “Lost Scared and Tired,” pulled the room together toward attentive headspace from scattered conversations. Then, much like the song's gradual increase in layers and dynamics, the overall set gradually expanded as well; dishing out more power and emotion with each cut. Things reached somewhat of an odd breaking point when, in the middle of the mid-tempo, syllabic chorus and harmony driven song, "Ides of Fall," guitarist Larry Gast III suddenly and seamlessly transitions into “Raining Blood” by Slayer – crazy metal-style axe wielding and all!

After gathering everybody back from a roll of laughter and a realization by frontman Jared Kolesar, that “you know things are getting a little crazy when,” he and The Mill took the show to an even more intense place – though by means of a completely opposing nature to that of just applying sheer volume. During the performances of “Western Expansion” and “Song for a Girl,” the band immersed themselves in the literal middle of the crowd – on the floor and all – to play in a most quiet and intimate manner. Flawless a capella and sing-a-long by both the band and the audience showed the depth of enthused fan that was present last night. Anyone could join in of course, but there was no denying who the long time followers were. Though rather than inspire any feelings of isolation, the singing created a very delicate series of moments that, even as an “outsider,” one can't help but watch and listen to with joy.

As the set began its approach to finality, the band pivoted back toward foot-stomping, hand clapping, and call-and-response style engagement to boost up the closing three songs (“Keep Me Going,” “Breathe Me In,” and “Life We Chose”). Additionally, just prior, Kolesar took to the mic to talk with the audience; encouraging camaraderie not through notes but a plain outright request, which was somewhat surprisingly, embraced without hesitation:

Everybody look left, now look right. I want you to put your arms around the people on either side of you – doesn't matter if you know 'em or not.”

It would very easy say that Jared & The Mill's make-friends-mantra is simply a matter of branding. While positive, a first time audience member might not be fully taken in by these vibes. Yet, when contemplated all together – the room; the audience; the jokes ("You're going to sing 'mmm' and 'ahh.' Think like you're solving a riddle: 'mmm...AH!'"); the many and lengthy non-band related conversations had between fans and band members (another common denominator of Jared & The Mill and Edison); and heck, even the cool approach that is Jared & The Mill's pseudo drum-circle-style mid-show setup – it is undeniable that the “family” these Arizona gentlemen invite all their live audience members or music buyers to join, isn't a flat ploy for attention. Kolesar and his bandmates, as well as Slaton and her band brothers, truly want to entrust the stories of their lives to anyone who wants to receive them.