Cute Is What We Aim For, Monty Are I
Orlando, FL • May 31, 2006
“Who the hell is Jack’s Mannequin?” is the common cry of the passers-by who glance at the House of Blues marquee on the way to their downtown Disney destination. The tourists may not know,but there are 2,000+ happy fans smiling through the security checks on their way inside to the sold-out event.
Here’s what I can tell you about JM, so that you’re up to speed: Jack’s Mannequin is Andrew McMahon, the former singer/guitarist for Something Corporate. He quit SM in 2004 to pursue a solo career (the album Everything In Transit), but was then diagnosed with Acute Lymphatic Leukemia. Cancelling a planned summer tour, he underwent Chemo and had a bone marrow transplant. While in the hospital he nearly died of penumonia. Now he’s recovered and doing a few warm-up gigs of his own before touring all summer, in a supporting role, with O.A.R.
Opening the evening was Seattle’s Monty Are I. Dueling vocalists, as well as guitarists, the guys virtually glowed in response to their fortune of playing to such a large crowd. “Really! This is the biggest crowd we’ve played to,” frontman Steve Aiello revealed. They’re scheduled to do some Warped Tour gigs later this month, talk about big crowds! Their spirited performance was a fitting kickstart to a night of positive pop rock made by friendly, fresh-faced young dudes.
Cute Is What We Aim For are a band to watch for in the coming year. Their debut album has been put out by Florida’s own Fueled By Ramen label, and the audience already seemed to know many of the songs word for word. Predictably the ones that elicit the largest response are the same songs on the band’s MySpace playlist. Hate the trend if you must (and I resisted the temptation to get my own page until recently), but MySpace has sped up the process of exposure for premature bands like CIWWAF in a manner that would have made publicists of decades back wet themselves!
Andrew McMahon’s appearance was treated with unabashed gratitude that had the singer/songwriter/pianist grinning from ear to ear throughout his 90 minute set. With his grand piano set up downstage, McMahon (along with the rest of Jack’s Mannequin) delivered as much dynamics as a sit-down musician could muster. Whenever breaks in piano playing allowed for it, he was up and running across the lip of the stage seemingly too excited to keep seated.
Though a large part of his popularity stems from his involvment with the teen soap One Tree Hill (his single “The Mixed Tape” is featured on the show’s soundtrack), his Ben Folds-ish pop is not so saccharine as to put off the post-high school crowd. More importantly McMahon’s vibe is one of hope and triumph that is a refreshing change from the usual whine and whimper of some of his contemporaries.