Oh, Messy Life: The Mae Shi take The Helm

written by Ben Funkhouser
photos by Jake Goltiani

The Mae Shi is an amazing band and hands down one of the best live bands in existence. I first met them at the KEXP station in April of 2008; they had just done an in-studio. I nervously asked them if I could get on the list for that night’s show since I had minimal funds. They played an amazing show that night and turned out to be some of the nicest dudes ever. I heard about a last minute show at The Helm gallery last Saturday, and my friend Jake and I headed down to Tacoma. The Helm was featuring art by a number of friends and sort of friends, all of which was amazing. They are called the Social Ghost Society, if you care to check out the art. Medieval Women were playing when we got there, minus one. Oddly though, the missing member of MW was in the crowd (???). They as usual were cute as fuck, charming and very mellow. Dimples played next. This band is similar to Beat Happening in a few ways, like the shared boy girl vocals and the endearing simplicity of their songs. But in their own way, Dimples kind of captures a sweet vibe, where they have some odd and pretty complex (maybe they’ll deny it) vocal and melody parts. Maybe I am misinterpreting it, but I occasionally catch little bits of pop genius when I hear them. Much heckling occurs. I walk outside to get $5 teriyaki at this really bad place a few blocks down, and it was closed, but she served me anyway. It was bad.

I walked back up and hugged my old buddies while they set up their gear on the small stage. The Mae Shi is a great band in any environment; they take the space and absorb everything, then spray it out in a confusing fury of keyboards, guitars and shrieking vocals. Their first song, off of Terrorbird was totally reminiscent of Arab on Radar, or another no-wavey band. They then blasted through a series of new and old songs, never slowing down. Jeff Byron, the guitar player, has a rad radio attachment that allows him to move anywhere in the room without having to deal with cumbersome chords. He was all over the place that night, at times going behind the crowd, confusing everyone. Another goofy thing about this goofy guy, is his light sensitive goober, wired into his guitar. When turned on, it reacts to light, making a ton of weird noises and when applied correctly, wails with his guitar. The Mae Shi are a caffeinated mess of fun, youth and an inability to grow up. After the show, I ended up hanging out with them, and Mister Byron and I talked about the weird rotating lineup of the band. It started out with his brother and two others, all of whom have left, cycled in the three current members who aren’t him, plus two who don’t tour with the band. He is the only original member left, but he hopes that The Mae Shi will eclipse him and no one will be original. We talked about it, and he said that he hoped that the Mae Shi would continue on as a self-help entity to whoever needed it. He joined to learn things and travel, working out how to make his own amps and instruments, screenprinting shirts and traveling the country and world. The Mae Shi is more than just a band, he said. Everyone is in The Mae Shi.

Upcoming shows:

  • Fruit Bats, Sera Cahoone at the Vera Project – 2/7/09
  • Murder City Devils, Past Lives and Cap Lori at the Showbox Market – 2/11/09
  • The Music Tapes, Nana Grizol at the Vera Project - 2/19/09


The Dimples



The Mae Shi

Ben Funkhouser is a former KEXP programming intern turned weekly columnist. He his column, Oh, Messy Life, will focus strictly on the all-ages music in Seattle. He also is the booking assistant at the Vera Project and writes for Public Access Media.

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