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Culture Shock

Happy Music By Happy People - Live Review of The Mowgli's At Alumni Hall

The Mowgli’s stopped in Bloomington on November 30th off their fall 2018 tour following the 2018 release of their EP, I Was Starting to Wonder. I’ve been a fan of The Mowgli’s ever since I first heard “Say It, Just Say It” on the radio. Their infectious sound can’t help but make me feel like I’m lying under the warm California sun, despite the fact I’ve never been. Their signature sound, messages of love, and honest lyrics make The Mowgli’s a band you want to stick around for. I was lucky enough to see them before when they toured with one of my favorite artists, Lights. The first time I saw them, the show was energetic and warm. Almost exactly three years later, I can happily report that their show at Alumni Hall was no different.

The Mowgli’s were the first concert in Alumni Hall in 13 years. Who better to open an on-campus concert than a local band? Everyday Fantastic made for an energy-pumping opener. While most of the songs they performed were originals, they still made sure to interact with the crowd with easily done sing-a-long lines. I somehow still have “oh, oh, oh now, please don’t go now” stuck in my head. However, the energy at Alumni Hall finally got its feet off the ground when they sang the song every college student can perfectly recite at a party: “Mr. Brightside.” They proved themselves to be an excellent choice to help pump up the audience for the headlining band. Every band member worked in tandem – complete with relatable lyrics, impressive vocals and harmonies, and an original instrumental sound – to create a great atmosphere.

At the front, the huge fans were pressed up against the stage while people who weren’t as familiar were scattered off along the walls. I was about three rows back but I didn’t notice my location because The Mowgli’s were incredibly captivating. By the end of the first few songs, even those leaned against the walls like rebels at prom were pressed in closer and banging their heads.

Coming onto to stage and immediately opening with “Spacin’ Out” from their most recent 2016 album Where’d Your Weekend Go? had the crowd immediately bouncing on their feet. Even the less than casual fan was singing the chorus by the second time around. From the very start, you could see how Josh Hogan, lead vocalist and guitarist, was genuinely into the music he was performing. His heel would leave the ground on every “spacin’ out” belted out toward the audience, leaving him strumming his guitar on his tiptoes. They followed immediately into “Bad Dream” from the same 2016 release. The Mowgli’s never had a lack of energetic music or energy, in general, to get the audience jumping up and down. They all dance along to their own music as if they are also hearing it for the first time themselves. Shortly after these songs Katie Earl, vocalist and percussionist, quipped to the audience, “I feel like I’m in Hogwarts in the best way possible. Thank you for such a beautiful campus!” Well, Katie, flattery will get you everywhere – we certainly love our campus!

Following “Bad Dream,” The Mowgli’s played the first of three songs from their 2018 EP I Was Starting to Wonder. “I Feel Good About This” is a true The Mowgli’s song if you’ve ever heard one. As for “Kansas City,” it’s a personal favorite about finding and losing home that feels almost built to reverberate through a stadium. The setlist was punctuated by ten more songs from their previous three albums, a stand-alone single, and a lively cover of The Chainsmoker’s “Closer.”

Among the best songs that The Mowgli’s performed live were the title track to The Mowgli’s third album “Where’d Your Weekend Go,” their 2015 hit “I’m Good,” and their breakout, sunny, love-filled, encore song “San Francisco.” If someone in the audience isn’t dancing in some capacity by the opening line of “San Francisco,” I could only think to ask: who hurt you? And hope they get better soon.

After “Closer,” Hogan stopped momentarily and explained how he likes to call people out in the audience at their shows. He then pointed to me and said he saw me the night before. I was previously beating myself up because they mentioned they had been to Buffa Louie’s for Trivia Night the night before and I was there, but I hadn’t seen them. I was taken by surprise, I pointed at myself inquisitively and he replied: “Yeah you! Hi I’m Josh.”

I was completely elated! I already had a smile on my face, but in Whoville Alumni Hall they say it grew three sizes that day. He continued “I saw him walking through the city last night and he looked so cool. And he had on the coolest hat.” I could barely muster out a “thank you so much” as I placed my hand over my heart to show my gratitude. Katie chimed in, “Hi, I’m Katie. You did look cool.” So, it’s safe to say, dear readers, I’m never going to wear a different outfit again. I was already feeling the love, but I couldn’t have felt it even more than right in that moment. I was soaring – rock stars told me I looked cool! I’ve simply peaked. Interestingly enough, they then played “Say It, Just Say It.” Full circle? I know of her.

Just before performing “I’m Good,” Katie took to her microphone to share some words of wisdom and ultimately delivered The Mowgli’s take-home message.

“We, The Mowgli’s, believe that just a little more love and passion can change the world. If we love ourselves more and have more respect for ourselves, then we will respect others. And maybe we can make this nation actually great.”

This, of course, received uproarious screams and applause of affirmation. Love, positivity, and inclusivity have always been a part of The Mowgli’s. It has never once felt forced or disingenuous, but completely truthful and earnest coming from them.

By the end of their set, almost everyone was sweating, grinning, and filled with absolute warmth despite the chilly weather outside. I know I certainly was. I left smiling, walked home smiling, fell asleep smiling, and even woke up smiling.

Sometimes at concerts (especially if you go alone as I did), you’ll find yourself a bit uncomfortable and unwilling to dance but with The Mowgli’s that was never an issue. They make the entire experience feel as though it was being performed in your own living room. How do they do it? I can only logically assume it is some sort of loving, California magic.

Watching them perform is a prime example of how live music can be so special when shared with the right band and fans. From Josh Hogan singing from so deep within he is left on his tiptoes, to the fact he was so into it that halfway through one of his guitar strings snapped – he was in no way half-assing it, and he continued to play through the song – to Andy Warren closing his eyes during a particularly drum heavy moment to Katie making sure she grabbed the hand of every single fan who reached out after the encore, it’s clear the entire band drips with genuineness. There is no room for apathy in the politics they preach or the music they play.

For the entirety of the show, every single band member had a pleasant smile splayed across their face in a testament to the fact that they are very much happy people making happy music for other happy people, and they enjoy that. Not to say people who listen to The Mowgli’s, or even the band members themselves, can’t be sad, but it is virtually impossible to be sad and listen to The Mowgli’s simultaneously like trying to hold your breath and hum. So, don’t hold your breath, because trust me, humming their songs is exactly what you’ll be doing for days after seeing The Mowgli’s.

The Mowgli’s kick off their Making Friends Tour February 26th in Carrboro, North Carolina.


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