Mutemath lead singer Paul Meany might have taken the lyrics to recent single “War” a bit too literally, as he immediately did battle with a faulty microphone at the beginning of their Friday afternoon set at Austin City Limits.
“Let it go, I could but I won’t, I gotta fight it,” the spirited frontman sang as his mic crackled in and out throughout the band’s electrifying opening number. Sound problems right out of the gate can frazzle the most seasoned performer, but credit to a visibly frustrated Meany for laughing off the technical snag and leaning on his bandmates to power through the otherwise triumphant show-starter.
The New Orleans quartet might have taken the Honda Stage at 2:15 p.m., but spiritually, they blasted through a dusky co-headlining set, sparing no rockstar indulgence over the course of their invigorating hourlong performance. Meany shredded a mean (ha-ha) keytar solo from atop the piano on which he later did a nimble handstand; rode a blinking mattress across the audience during the obligatory crowd-surfing portion of the set; and led the throng in a rousing singalong to anthemic set-closer “Typical.” But the frontman owed the best-received moment of the performance to his daughter Amelia, who strutted the stage with pink noise-cancelling headphones clamped on her ears and duetted with her father on “Pixie Oaks,” earning roars of applause from the already-huge crowd.
These flourishes allowed Mutemath’s set to stand out, but their sheer virtuosity made the songs soar. Guitarist Todd Gummerman filled the space with massive, textural chords and catchy leads, while touring drummer Dave Hutchinson deftly blended slippery fills and pummeling beats, giving the band’s spacey prog-pop a far more muscular bent than on record. These technical elements all locked beautifully into place on the amplified baptismal funk of “Achilles Heel,” as Meany sang, “You gotta hold ground, but you can’t stick around forever.”
Maybe so, but they at least stuck around long enough to enliven the sun-drenched festival-goers as they began their exhausting weekend. Neither artist nor audience could ask for more.