A giant line accompanied by a clueless bouncer surrounded the outside of Elvis Guesthouse on Tuesday. One would assume that this tiny, basement located, 50’s style music venue was packed to capacity, however, when we eventually got inside the place was barely filled. It was a pretty neat setup though. Dim, cool lights gave each room its own ambiance, and the floor lights illuminated the stage as well as the bands and created shadows that jumped across the ceiling.
Every H&M dressed hipster in the Guesthouse crowded in front of the stage (not raised) as the second band, Haybaby, came to an end and Mainland was next in line to perform. As the guys went to set up their gear, I couldn’t tell if Mainland was a bunch of young local kids that happened to get all their friends out to see them play, OR if they were a bunch of young talented musicians with a huge following who had been around for a while. Their physical appearances resembled that of the indie version of the Jonas brothers mixed with Vampire Weekend so imagine my confusion.
Below the lead singer/guitarist, Jordan Topf, lay a smorgasbord of pedals which intrigued me since I had no prior knowledge of what genre of music Mainland was. Their rhythm guitarist/keys player, Alex Pitta, had a midi stacked atop a regular keyboard along with a beautiful Epiphone guitar. There was definitely not enough space for the four boys to play, but they made it work. The bassist, Corey Mullee, (the apparent edgier member of the group whom came complete with tattoos, scruff, and a trendy tapered haircut) was tucked right behind Topf.
When all wires were finally plugged in and all instruments came to full volume, there was this surge of energy that filled the room as they began. Their sound was reminiscent of Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan but as relevant as King Tuff and Coconut Records and yet consisted of pitch-perfect harmonies like the Beach Boys.
First song, I was ready to buy in. Topf has this extremely distinct tone, whine, and shape to his voice that was not quite as howl-like as Dylan, but totally paralleled with Kyle Thomas from King Tuff. Topf’s guitar rang out with this superb surfer rock distorted, tinny, twang and color that filled each song.
Just before what was only their second song, the crowd began screaming out requests for Mainland to play, It was at this point where the lead singer admitted, “oh my god, we’re getting requests and we’re only the second song in!” For this song, Topf brought his entire mic stand and live action guitar playing right into the audience that couldn’t be no more than 4 feet from where they were performing. He grabbed and kept everyone’s attention with enthusiastic stage presence. You could tell Topf embodied his lyrics and music.
Drummer, Dylan Longstreet, appeared so lax and made his drumming look effortless as he pumped out all the wonderful tight beats from his little catty-cornered area. His long arms seemed as if they could stay bent in the same way forever as he barely strained to gently hit each head.
Song after song, I became to feel more and more like I could absolutely hear Mainland streaming from radios all over the place. Their music is catchy, versatile, and catchy with the typical, yet memorable, “oh oh oh’s” and “dum dum dum’s” or even the “do do do’s.” Kids were sitting on tables and tops of booths and on the floor jiving and dancing while singing along, “Outcast”, their newest single, manifested that indie summer hit but not in a bad way.
In a great way. In a way that breaks the mold from the typical mundane indie rock to make room for a bit of a different sound.