The Orwells’ joyful anarchy underscores a band on the rise


By The Festival Lawyer //

The Orwells with Twin Peaks and Criminal Hygiene //
Slim’s — San Francisco
Sunday March 23, 2014 //

The Orwells ended their show at Slim’s last Sunday night in a fit of joyful anarchy. Vocalist Mario Cuomo (yeah you heard me, Mario Cuomo) ended the show by climbing the scaffolding at the right side of the stage while belting out Iggy Pop’s “I Wanna Be Your Dog”.

Beneath him, the crowd was going bananas. In the mosh pit below Cuomo, I counted 2 Descendents (!) t-shirts, a half a dozen crowd surfers and so many people were stage diving that I had to check the date on my phone to confirm that this was in fact, a Sunday night.

You may not have heard of The Orwells. If you’ve heard anything, it’s probably something about how young they are. Vocalist Cuomo, his cousin Dominic Corso (guitar), twins Grant (bass) and Henry Brinner (drums), and friend Matt O’Keefe (guitar) have been playing together since late 2009. They’ve already had quite an epic 2014. Earlier this year they had an appearance on Letterman that went viral and their set at SXSW was one of the festival’s most talked about performances. Oh and did I mention they were in the 9th grade in 2009? And that they rushed their high school graduations just last year so they could become rock stars? …Amazing.

The band opened with “Other Voices” which, besides rocking hard, has this very interesting low fi, fuzzy, 60s garage band feel to it. A lot of the band’s material feels like it would be right at home on one of those Nuggets compilation CDs, right between The Electric Prunes and The Knickerbockers. The band even worked a tiny portion of “Build Me Up Buttercup” by The Foundations into their set.

Right before their show in San Francisco, the band tweeted: “Is This It …is equivalent to death…’s just not fair.” It’s clear that the band loves the Strokes. But at the same time they don’t ape them. A song like “Who Needs You” has a fantastic Strokes kind of sound to it, but in a bashed up, garage band way. Other show highlights included “Mallrats La La La” and “In My Bed”.

Singer Cuomo gets most of the attention onstage because he is a maniac live. At times he is falling on the stage and screaming. Other times he stands completely still and stares into the crowd as if his mind is a million miles away. But make no mistake, the Orwells aren’t a backup band for Cuomo. This band is tight and has clearly learned a ton from their hectic touring schedule. They played a crisp, no nonsense hour-long set that left the crowd happy yet wanting more.

Within minutes of the show ending, the band was already on the floor, taking pictures and hanging out with fans. The crowd had a sweaty, happy vibe as if we had all been in the stands together and then collectively ran onto the floor after our team had hit the winning basket.

As we filed out, a young kid next to me asked, “Wasn’t that great? I don’t get why they aren’t bigger? Shouldn’t they be a huge band?”

“They really might be soon,” I told him.

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