Opening for Canadian power-pop supergroup The New Pornographers, Mini Mansions take the audience by surprise. The side project of Queens of the Stone Age bassist Michael Schuman, the band defy all expectations – it’s clear from before the band even come on stage that the audience is in for something original as the venue fills with what sounds like funfair music. The band emerge, clad in brightly coloured suits, and immediately launch into what can only be described as demented circus music.
Schuman drums and splits vocals with keyboardist Tyler Parkford, who covers the sound in layers of camp organ and carnivalesque piano. However as the band launch into their latest single, ‘Death is a Girl,’ it’s bassist Zach Dawes who dominates. Wielding more pedals than the Tour de France, Dawes steals the show from his bandmates, switching between fuzzy, dextrous riffs, squalls of feedback and funk grooves constantly, rarely repeating himself, and providing a one man showcase for all the qualities of a frequently underused instrument.
The band work their way through a storming opening section, following ‘Death is a Girl’ with ‘Monk,’ ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and ‘Creeps,’ winning over the initially confused crowd with ease. However the set doesn’t quite keep up the momentum; the keyboards are largely inaudible, the songs slow and technical problems prevent Schuman’s attempt to move to the guitar. In addition, the set isn’t exactly varied. The tempo slows for much of the second half but beyond Dawes taking a more traditional (and far less interesting) role the songs sound exactly the same, Schuman even playing a seemingly identical beat for several. However just as the gig starts to drag, the band crank it back up a gear, accelerating as they deliver the most frantic, storming one-two of the night, bringing the show back to an exceptional close. So, whilst the middle section sags, and Mini Mansions only really do one thing, when that one thing is so accomplished, when the bass is this good, it doesn’t matter. For once we can all agree with Mehgan Trainor; it really is all about that bass.
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