Live at Capitol Hill Block Party: Mahjongg

photo by Brittney Bush Bollay

Intent to get the crowd shaking, dance-punk band Mahjongg took the Vera Stage Friday evening. Right away their style was clear — progressive dance music full of quirky percussion hits, groovy bass lines lasting little more than a bar and clanky, repetitive synth riffs. Throughout the set the band was tight, energetic and appealed to the goofy dancing taking place along the small corridor of street leading up to the stage.

A jam band at heart, Mahjongg’s process for a song usually consisted of finding a bass groove, putting down an abrasive drum beat and letting a slew of sounds run wild over the top. The members not busy keeping the main riffs going experimented with individual electronic percussion hits, wailing synth pads creating atmospheric intensity and participated in what seemed like ritualistic shouting. Oftentimes they deviated from familiar time signature but after vigorous journeys through rhythm changes and confusion they always began again a fresh and exciting dance beat that riled the crowd.

Although a comparison to !!! comes to mind because of their house tempo beats and progressive tendencies, Mahjongg remains somewhat amateur when stacked next to a great. At times the songs seemed a bit unfocused and ended in spots that did not feel like endings. However, the foursome used their youth to their advantage, harnessing an incredible amount of energy and garage rock authenticity to win the hearts of Vera Stage listeners. If you love seeing a bunch of dudes hit things, dig groovy bass lines and enjoy your occasional fill of dancing that only dance-punk bands can inspire, check these guys out.

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