‘So we played Edin-bro last night – it was awesome!’ Maybe not the best opening line for a gig in a formerly rough pub in Glasgow. Never mind – MEN, a Brooklyn based trio soon got the crowd back on board.
Playing to a diverse audience of students, arty-types and young professionals, the ‘art/performance collective’ comprising of lead singer JD Samson and guitarists Michael O’Neill and Ginger Brooks Takahashi opened their set at the now-trendy Captain’s Rest with the foot-stomper Simultaneously. Samson’s yelped lyrics combined with urgent Depeche Mode-esque basslines to conjure up a sound not dissimilar to MGMT, but there is more to this band than just catchy pop songs.
MEN pursue a feminist and gender-equality agenda, and this is reflected in their music – much of which concerns sexual liberty, identity and the difficulties caused by being part of a sexual minority. Credit Card Babie$ for example, the third song in MEN’s set, explains some of the hardships involved with having children within a same-sex couple. It feels refreshing to hear musicians who genuinely believe in what they’re singing – this isn’t another pseudo-political group à la Flobots and the like. The audience too, many of which are members of the LGBT community evidently relate to the stories behind the music.
Politics aside, MEN clearly have a following in Glasgow – the fans sang along, and those (like me) who had little prior knowledge of the band were invited to join in with the call-and-response patterns in the choruses. It’s a shame then, that MEN are unlikely to find mainstream success within the UK – their songs are peppered with expletives and graphic descriptions. Still, the three main members and contributors/producers Johanna Fateman and Emily Roysdon all have side-projects and appear to be influential within the underground LGBT-scene.
MEN place great emphasis on the staging of their live performances and clearly enjoy lapping up the adoration of their crowd. Brooks Takahashi and O’Neill spin round the stage and at one point, Samson dons a pig mask – for no discernible reason. All too soon, the half-hour set comes to an end, and after a brief encore, MEN bound off the stage. The catchy guitar riffs and piercing synths may be forgotten, but the message behind MEN’s songs clearly means a lot to their fans.
photo by Emily Roysdon