Concert Review: Mike Mains & The Branches in Kansas City
Mike Mains & The Branches performed at The Rino in Kansas City Friday night, and I was there to catch a glimpse of what this Michigan-native band had to offer the music world. In my previous interview with Mike, frontman of the group, he put a big emphasis on the importance of addressing mental health. This was something I was personally looking forward to, especially since Mike expressed how important the topic is to him and the rest of the band. However, I was a bit disappointed with the way it was presented. We’ll get into that later, but let’s talk about the overall performance from the group.
After a rather lengthy sound-check, the band began performing at around 9:45 p.m. Fans had been awaiting their performance for a good hour after the opening band finished their set, which was a bit lengthy for a small show like this. I noticed the crowd’s mood changed from excited, to rather irritated. Nevertheless, once the tunes started rolling, the energy was brought back.
As promised, MMAB included several songs from their upcoming album “When We Were in Love” (set to release in April). Mike has an incredibly unique voice, and he’s able to hit high notes without making it sound as if he’s screaming rather than singing. Some vocalists push their voices too hard, at times, to reach a big note that will really wow the crowd, and this can become really obvious to listeners, which defeats the overall purpose of hitting that big note. Mike, on the other hand, seems to know his limits and manipulates his voice well enough to hit the notes that really grab an audience’s attention. Shanon sang along every now and then, but never loud enough for the audience to really hear her. I would’ve loved to see more of what her voice had to offer.
The chemistry amongst the members was more than strong, which is very key in performances. The fact that this band consists of married couples, excluding their guitarist, helps a lot in that aspect. Throughout the show, you can see how well Shanon and Mike interact together, and you can see the love they hold for one another in their eyes. This added an emotional and intimate element into the set, and it was definitely needed with some of the slip-ups the band had. At the very beginning of the show, Mike had fallen into the drums while dancing around on the stage. Though it didn’t throw the overall sound of the music off, it did cause a loud laughter, and a bit of shock, to erupt from the crowd. The band played it off well, and it was a hiccup that could have been brushed off and been seen as comic relief. However, this wasn’t the only hiccup. Between sets, Mike had gotten confused on what song they were singing next, and his wife, Shannon, even called him out on it. Again, this can be seen as a ha-ha, quirky band moment, but we already had one of those moments. It seemed a little unprofessional at this point. Falling into the drums is one thing—things happen. Another, however, is forgetting what song is coming up in your set.
As I said before, MMAB claim to make an immense effort to emphasize the importance of mental health during their shows. However, I feel like it wasn’t talked about to the extent they were promising. The band didn’t address mental health problems until the very last song, and the presentation of the overall message felt very rushed. Mike took a very brief moment to address his own issues with mental health, but he never really expanded on it. His main point was to express the idea of all of us having ghosts and skeletons in our closets, but that doesn’t mean we should give up. The band proceeded to play “Everything’s Going to be Alright”, which of course was fitting to the overall message. My problem with this is that it was a little too cliche. The band promised mental health would have a huge role in the theme of the show, yet it seemed like it was very rushed, and they were repeating the same messages everyone else has been saying for years. I expected something different. I expected feeling a lot different leaving the show than how I felt when it started. To my disappointment, I didn’t, and I don’t think anyone else did either.
In the end, Mike Main & The Branches sound great together. Their songs have great lyrics, they play their instruments flawlessly, and they have a strong chemistry with one another. There were moments the crowd became really into the music, were dancing around, and were having loads of fun. There were also moments where the crowd could get close to the stage and experience a more intimate show. MMAB have great stage presence and lots of talent, but the mess-ups need to occur less frequently. Being a quirky band is one thing, but overdoing it can really ruin how an audience feels about the music. As long as they work on that issue, and improve the way they talk about sensitive issues like mental health, I’d say Mike Mains & The Branches have potential to make a bigger mark in the music industry.