Last night at the new Emo’s (RIP Emo’s on Red River), I had the chance to see New York homies Mainland open for Melanie Martinez as a part of her sold-out Cry Baby Tour. The new incarnation of the legendary venue was filled to capacity with a mixed crowd mainly composed of teenagers, the smoky air buzzing with excitement as dusk enveloped the building.
NYC based Mainland came onstage to a wave of cheers and voices that only got higher in pitch as they began to play. In the years that I’ve been watching these boys play, I’ve had the privilege of watching them become certified rock and rollers. With catchy, upbeat guitar riffs, emotionally resonant lyrics, and the engaging leadership of frontman Jordan Topf, Mainland commanded the warehouse space with clear magnetism.
The band’s sound, post-punk meets Top 40 meets melancholia, offers a refreshing juxtaposition between darkness and light that mirrors the band’s New York to California lifestyle. Mainland, who recorded their first EP, Shiner, during a visit to Texas, are signed to NY label 300 Entertainment. Their most recent release, the Outcast EP, was a fitting progression from earlier material and provided the framework for a dynamic live show. Though Mainland and Melanie Martinez are very different in sound and subject matter, the two together create a weirdly successful bill.
Melanie Martinez, a 20 year-old pop star made on network television and gifted with tremendous vocal talent, was a complicated presence on stage. The venue’s crowd was indicative of a world that Martinez has created through her music, a world in which young women are encouraged to be 100% themselves and get lost in music with total abandon. The show was oddly mesmerizing and a little demonic but in a casual way that seemed to be more an exploration of darkness than anything else.
The Cry Baby Tour is decidedly focused on the tropes of childhood, not on Johnny Depp, but Martinez is not far off from John Waters when it comes to a focus on the forbidden subject matter. Toward the end of her performance Martinez stood onstage, looking a little aloof and bathed in a purple light. The colors of her two-toned hair separated perfectly down the middle, framing a painted face, as she sang out achingly dark lyrics accompanied by orchestration that sounded like a carnival outside a rural town during the last hour before it closes for the season.