Words by Gianni Zorrilla
As I pulled up to Cheer Up Charlie's, I couldn't help but smile. I stared in the direction of the neon glowing entrance sign for a lingering moment. It was my first time at the venue, and more significantly, it would be my first time seeing one of my favorite bands in the entire universe—Mild High Club.
The intimacy of the outdoor space established the perfect setting for the occasion, modestly decked out with low hanging string lights, a delicate, cloud-like canopy overhead, and the friendly company of fellow music lovers. It was nearly impossible to contain my excitement.
Mild High Club is the psychedelic pop project of musician Alex Brettin. Their music is the ultimate trip through a broad range of feelings and emotion, whether nostalgia, elatedness, or pure tranquility. The ways in which their songs have been described often touch upon topics of ethereality and surrealism, or perhaps more mundane descriptions such as “stoner elevator music”, as one attendee of the show phrased it. Nevertheless, Alex Brettin is a technically gifted artist, and incorporates the ideal mix of sentimentality and charm. His music indulges in the strange just enough to provoke a persistent wonderment.
The band kicked off the night with “Club Intro," the legendary start to their debut album, Timeline. The set was pretty fairly divided between their debut album and sophomore album Skiptracing (a perfectly even distribution, in fact). Alex Brettin's melodic complexities were never once compromised, and endured throughout.
The first three songs off of Skiptracing, which have been described as a “psychedelic triptych,” were thankfully included in the set. I cannot think of a better description. The songs—"Skiptracing," “Homage,” and “Carry Me Back”— seamlessly blend into one another, heightening the proposal of appreciating the body of music as coalescing elements of a whole.
Other favorites like “Tesselation" and “Kokopelli” were also played. The man of the hour, Ariel Pink himself, even joined the band onstage to perform “The Chat,” a song that they collaborated on. Brettin made the unfortunate call of not playing one of their gentler tunes, “You and Me,” due to an overbearing sound-storm, courtesy of the band playing next door. Although a personal favorite was skipped, the decision did not at all take away from the overall beauty of the night.
Ethereal sounding synths and dreamy instrumentals fostered a visceral experience. In many instances, I simply felt as if I were elsewhere, a vivid, beautiful place beyond my present surroundings. For a band's music to have that kind of effect is something special.
Hearing these songs live was a surreal experience, to say the least, and I know everyone around me felt it too. The band ended the night with “Chapel Perilous,” a magically smooth departure. It is difficult to think of a more melodically chill way to spend a Sunday evening in downtown Austin. Mild High Club exceeded all possible expectations.