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Mayer Hawthorne and the County @ Bohannon 22.11.2009
I think that it is necessary to analyze Mayer Hawthorne and the County's show at Bohannon in two separate parts. It is difficult to balance a review for an excellent band with the unfortunate situation of an inappropriately designed club and extremely poor sound conditions.
The choice of Bohannon's as the venue for the show was wrong for multiple reasons. First, the organization of the club, with multiple rooms and a cramped stage area made it very difficult to fit the sold-out crowd in a position where it was actually possible to see the band. OK, maybe seeing the band isn't the most important factor of a concert. After all, music is truly meant to be heard. Unfortunately Bohannon's sound system was not appropriate for a live concert venue, at least not one of any quality. The speakers were not only generally inferior in sound-quality, but throughout the show, every 5-10 minutes, one of the speakers would lose power, cutting out one side of sound. As if that weren't enough, frequent feedback added to the distractions and frustrations of the evening.
However, despite these major drawbacks Mayer Hawthorne and the County shone as a creative and fun group. They provided not only fantastically groovy tunes, but also entertaining inter-song commentary. They pushed the audience to become involved in the performance with sing-alongs, had everyone's hands in the air to make "rain fingers" during I Wish it Would Rain, and encouraged the crowd to dance and bring a little love into the room. The set eased back and forth between Hawthorne's upbeat Motown-style songs and slow-dance ballads. Furthermore, the audience was kept on its toes with the occasional rapping interludes and even a sing-along with a recording of Biz Markie's "Just a Friend."
Hawthorne and the rest of the County paid appropriate homage to the origins of the genre they were playing not only through the songs themselves, but also their style of dress and mannerisms on stage. Bearing tweed suits, sweaters, scarves and a bottle of Hennessy the personality of the group encapsulated the attitude of the stars of soul. Despite the obvious sound issues, all members of the group kept their cool, encouraging the audience to enjoy themselves as much as possible.
The next time Mayer Hawthorne and the County passes through town, I can only hope they are scheduled at a more appropriate venue so that they might be able to really prove their talent to Berlin. This show was an encouraging introduction to the group; though feeling the energy and spirit they put into the show was almost disappointing given the difficulty to really get into the groove of the evening.
Written by Brit-Maren Schjeide
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