Show Review: Tricky at the Mohawk

by Hades Martinez


Tricky performed in Austin, TX Friday night at the Mohawk. Wait, let me rephrase that. Tricky performed IN AUSTIN, TEXAS FRIDAY NIGHT! I need to put that into perspective for you. Tricky’s been behind some of the most influential and innovative music and instantly classic albums worldwide since 1995. Since the 1995 release of his pivotal solo album debut MAXINQUAYE, Tricky has toured through Texas a mere three times- once in 1998, once more in 1999, and most recently in 2009, where he performed two shows at SXSW. If you were absent from last night’s performance, you are an absolute moron and will never understand the meaning of life. Sorry, losers.

Opening for Tricky on many of his U.S. dates this year is In The Valley Below. You might recognize their single “Peaches” from the radio (a magic box that plays sounds picked up from invisible electromagnetic waves in the air). ITVB are a relatively new band. Angela Gail Mattson and Jeffrey Jacob Mendel began playing as In The Vally Below in 2011 and quickly rose to popularity with their debut album The BeltElephant is their newest EP, released back in July via Bright Antenna Records.

I was impressed by the band’s performance and aesthetic. Mattson wore a creepy white wedding gown and played everything from bass guitar, to synths, to shaking a literal chain as a percussion instrument (reminiscent of a Motown recording technique used on the song “Nowhere to Run” by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas). She also handled the majority of singing duties with poise and confidence.

Mendel makes up the other half of the band playing lead guitar, occasional lead vocals, and backup/harmony vocals. Decked out in a matching white vintage suit, Mendel shared a custom dual mic stand with Mattson that split into a fork with a wicked crescent moon emblem in the middle. Mendel has a Jack White-esque look and feel to him, accompanied by a high registering vocal range.

Musically, In The Valley Below are a great choice to start off a Tricky show. Somewhere between indie rock, dream pop, and synth-driven blues lies the sound I was privy to last night. Most importantly, the group was very humble and respectful of being the chosen onset to the euphoric and addictive drug that is Tricky. The narrative was, “Hi, welcome to the show. Start getting stoned and drunk, enjoy this music, Tricky will be on shortly.”

The group is doing everything a new band must do for the chance of survival in this strange music industry from engaging in social media, live streaming shows including this one, innovating new merchandise avenues (you’ll find an attempt to sell home-brewed beer on their website; after the show, Angela explained to me the licenses required to sell became problematic), and hanging out after their performances, ready and easily available to talk to every single fan.

Now, on to the main course. I have been an obsessive fan of Tricky nearly all of my life. I have always dreamed of seeing him live. A unrelenting curiosity has lingered over me as to what a live Tricky show even is. What does it look like? How is it performed?

I finally got my answers last night at the Mohawk. How does Tricky put on a show? He does it by having fun. A Tricky show is a punk rock performance from your childhood bedroom, jumping on the bed with a water bottle for a microphone and singing to your favorite tunes. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you don’t understand music and had a very lame and dull childhood.

How does Tricky perform a song when the vocalist is unavailable? Easy. He plays the music and acts as a conduit to the emotions behind it. Sometimes it’s just that, like how he opened the show with “You Don’t Wanna” and just let the instrumental ride while he channeled the energy and showed how fearlessly vulnerable he is on stage. For other jams, he invites Breanna Barbara’s sultry voice to the party, adding her own creative energy to songs memorized by everyone in attendance.

We, the lucky audience, got a feeling for how Tricky’s music is made; watching him point at the guitarist, or the drummer, or at Barbara to cue their parts. His musical sensibility is not something that can be taught or learned, it is all natural and raw. If you consult Twitter or Facebook you’ll read comments about Tricky briefly storming off the stage, however, I felt like it was more of a mic drop “I’ll be right back” move. I, myself, was annoyed by the sounds coming from the bar next door, or the B-Boy Battle on the inside stage of the Mohawk bleeding into our once-in-a-life-time concert experience, where we were being wooed and transcended by intimate, provocative loops, rhythms, and performances.

Ultimately, everyone who came out to the show last night made a lasting improvement to their life. We all took home something special and shared. Tricky fans are genuine and sincere. This was the first concert I’ve been to in years where the show wasn’t enjoyed primarily through iPhone screens recording directly to InstaSnapBookTube. Also, one last thought: Dear Mohawk, please make your cups bigger.

Hades Martinez has produced music for Protextor, Space Camp Death Squad, Kilmatik and more. When we asked him if he wanted us to include a way for people to contact him in his bio, he instead let out a screech and then said some things we can’t print here, for fear of arrest.