More Modes Please – A review of John Maus at Washington Hall

Author: Madeline Thomas

(header photo courtesy of the artist’s bandcamp)


John Maus is space music for people who wouldn’t make it through astronaut training- mainly because we have smoker’s lungs. Robotic and manic; a refreshing reminder of 80’s synth pop. Profit Prison, local Seattle act, began our journey into the dark mind of a man left to his own mixing devices. It’s a pleasant thing to have a local performer open up a show, so kudos to the bookers! The opening act was an effortless segway into the Maus mayhem which followed.

It was like being in a trance. I can imagine hypnotherapy is somewhat similar to a John Maus performance. He stood before us, center stage, panting. One hand clutching his chest, he contorted his body parts, convulsing in perfect coordination to the melancholic music. Maus has impeccable stage presence; certain performers captivate their audience from the moment they walk onto stage, and he proved himself more than capable of demanding our attention.

Watching John Maus perform his music, and it truly is a performance in the sense that the music radiates through him and into you like some weird, synth blood transfusion. His investment in discomfort shows; writhing body parts and guttural grunts are a staple of Maus’ mock-dance/meltdown routine. What’s the difference between a meltdown and a breakdown? Could this have been both?


(Blame the poor photo quality on an inability to jump and snap pics at the same time.)


You wouldn’t expect a man dressed in khakis and a button down (probably from Salvation Army, or a hometown stop at Groovy’s [Minnesotan shout out]) to yell and screech like a banshee, but then… he does. And he’s sweating and screaming, and you’re sweating and screaming, and you’re screaming, and we’re screaming, and suddenly someone punches you in the back to “Bennington” and it all feels RIGHT.

He poured water over his head, on the stage, possibly everywhere but his mouth. Four plastic bottles joined him on stage, the contents of which ended up dripping off of his shirt and mingling with hard-earned sweat. It was a hell of a show, and, important to note, in a perfectly suited venue.

Washington Hall may be my new favorite venue in Seattle – though there aren’t many shows here, so keep eyes peeled for upcoming gigs. Imagine Neptune but smaller, less commitment to acoustics, and a better chance of a full-stage view. Now throw in the burlesque lighting element of Lofi, those thick, vanity mirror type of lightbulbs, and douse the image in your mind with wood tones. Tada! Washington Hall is all of this, and more, housed in a beautiful brick building. 110 years old and aging gracefully, it’s a historical landmark. Pick the right show and wear the right shoes—this is a must-mosh space.

And mosh we did. Again, and again, to “Cop Killer,” “Keep Pushing On,” and a few tracks from his more recent albums. The shared sentiment among audience members post-concert, besides echoes of praise and excitement, was mourning for “Hey Moon.” But hey, I get it, there’s more to the music than top hits. Personally, I prefer when artists choose to perform lesser known, or popular songs. Deep cuts elicit the best response from the crowd- it is a blissful feeling of satisfaction to hear *that song*, that one track you scream along to in your car, in a crowded performance hall.

So, there you have it. I saw John Maus in concert, and I think he saw straight through me.

Follow John Maus on Bandcamp, Facebook, and Twitter.


MADELINE THOMAS | alliteration affinity | KXSU Music Reporter

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