Men I Trust: Live at the El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles
“Would you mind keeping it down?”
The woman standing in front of me turned back around before I could even respond with an obedient “yes ma’am” nod. It took me a few seconds to realize what had just happened.
Did she just ask me to shut up at a concert?
I don’t think that’s ever happened to me before … maybe that one time at the opera when I was seven, but other than that, never.
To my right was my slobbering drunk buddy who has cruised through most of his life being louder than the average person because “he’s European” (I’m not sure how he keeps getting away with that; aren't Americans the loud ones?) I realized that we were the noisiest people in the crowd and also drinking at a pace not appropriate for the event. My first concert in three years and I'd probably forgotten how to conduct myself ... or maybe it was just unlike anything I'd ever seen before.
In front of us, across the pond of grinning observers swaying from side to side like Stevie Wonder during an acceptance speech, stood the five-piece Canadian outfit, Men I Trust. Though the band was barely moving, they still managed to breathe a bit of life into the stiff crowd. I had to snap out of my “these people don’t know how to party” fit and stop behaving like I didn’t get the memo — the band’s catalogue was the memo and I wasn't at a party.
Less than two months before the show, Men I Trust put out their fifth studio album, Untourable Album, and went on tour soon after. My reaction to it was reminiscent of my adolescent self and how being warned against reading a book or watching a PG-13 movie would translate to “just do it!” by the time it reached my ears. They released an album with a self-imposed constraint that they set out to disprove immediately and it made fans like myself only more eager to watch them live.
The show opened with one of the band’s most popular (and upbeat) songs, “Tailwhip.” It closed with another hit, “Show Me How.” For the encore, they played yet another favorite, “Seven.” Sandwiched between the first and last song of the main set (both of which are from previous albums) was their newest record played almost in its entirety. This is because it works best as a single unit rather than a “good enough” track list with a few standout songs.
There’s nothing untourable about the songs on Untourable Album. In fact, it’s far gentler than the bands previous work, which means it’s really gentle. That's what “untourable” most likely insinuates — not that it’s impossible to play live but that you're meant to put it on in your bedroom on a rainy day while staring over a dull parking lot through a foggy window. The album's atmosphere is tough to replicate on stage, but it makes for a compelling performance nonetheless … it just didn’t feel the same as when I played it for the first time on a grey Sunday morning in San Francisco.
Emmanuelle Proulx, the lead singer and guitarist, is the unofficial mascot of Men I Trust. When a voice as feathery as hers is amplified in a room full of hipsters, everyone’s attention immediately turns to it. It triggers the urge to seek out where it’s coming from to see if it’s even real. Proulx is indeed as shy as she sounds but she pulled through the entire set with a whispering confidence that suggests she doesn’t need to scroll through comment sections to understand that she is loved. It’s her band (even though she didn’t start it) and it's her audience. The rest of the group knows this just as well as the crowd.
This experience not only sobered me down but also humbled me. My buddy, however, was still getting hammered because he couldn’t wrap his mind around the fact that a band (and its fans) could be this mellow at a show.
“I think it’s ’cause they’re Canadian,” he said.