Photos By Clarissa Villondo, Words By Melissa Groth
MS MR brought their own bubbly brand of angst to the 9:30 Club for their sixth show and first headlining gig at the venue Tuesday night. Preatures, a retro-ish rock band from Australia with biker-bar attitude opened for the duo. Lead singer of Preatures, Isabella Manfredi, has a set of lungs on her. Her vocals are powerful and gritty, and complimented nicely by Jack Moffitt’s rocking guitar riffs. They played a short set, with Manfredi leading into their final song by asking the audience “Are you guys ready to dance badly?” Perhaps she meant to get a sentiment across more adequately expressed by “How badly do you want to dance?” as in, how great is your desire to bust a move right now? Either that or she knew the guy standing next to me, who badly wanted to dance badly.
Nevermind syntax. The Preatures is a solid rock band with good personality and stage presence, and whether or not the audience wanted badly to dance or wanted to dance badly, they were dancing.
I’ve been a fan of MS MR for some time now. I first read about them in Nylon, watched the video for their single “Fantasy” and was mesmerized by the sheer amount of glittery bitterness. Their album Secondhand Rapture is full of solid, catchy and heartfelt pop tracks, each one perfectly suited for whatever emotion you may be feeling toward your significant other at the time. Lizzie and Max are great performers, with incredible voices. Lizzie’s voice is raspy but smooth and soulful, and Max’s back-up vocals are David Byrne-esque with significant depth. Lizzie spent most of the set dancing and jumping around stage but never seemed out of breath. Max, a self-admittedly “very sweaty guy” had to wipe down his keyboard a couple times due to the hip swaying, gyrating, and double pirouette (no lie. It was impressive), as well as the sheer effort and emotion put into his vocals.
After a few of their own songs, they did a cover of Arctic Monkeys’ “Do I Wanna Know,” which was less boring than the original. My friend pointed out to me that the song, when sung by a female, gains a certain vulnerability and moving sadness that isn’t present in the original. She’s much less of a cynic than I am.
The dynamic between Max and Lizzie is entertaining in and of itself. These are two cool people you want to hang out with. They are in sync with each other onstage (we’ll forgive one failed transition and Lizzie jumping the gun on introducing the next song, which was really three songs later). They move in a sometimes-synchronized, but never choreographed manner. Their voices are unique and powerful alone, but combined become this soothing stereo that may just have healing power over your broken heart.
The band slowed things down a bit with “This Isn’t Control,” one of my personal favorites off the record, which Max stated they hadn’t played in a few weeks and was nervous about it. Lizzie told him “You’re gonna do great Max, I just know it.” To which he replied, “So are you, Lizzie.” They’re jokingly cutesy back-and-forth was endearing rather than annoying, and sure enough, they both did great.
Max introduced “Think of You,” their next single (not their best song) and scorned-lover anthem by asking the crowd to “Think about a person in your life who, well, who was a real asshole, and when you were with them you were the weakest version of yourself.” Can do! Then he requested we all sing along with all of our bottled up anger, and “make it the bitchiest, most Alanis Morissette possible.” The chorus goes “I still think of you and all the shit you put me through,” which sounds like a tedious affliction, but watching Lizzie and Max onstage and letting them infect you with their energy makes it not quite so shitty.
There was no encore because they “honestly don’t have that much material.” The set ended with “Hurricane,” a song about being frightened by what goes on in one’s own mind. Despite all the shit they were put through, and the ‘dark, foul inner workings” of their minds, MS MR seem happy about it, even gracious.