MANHATTAN, NY—In 2001 in Norfolk, Virginia, vocalist/guitarist Dave Elkins (born Dave Gimenez) and drummer Jacob Marshall began what would become the indie emo band Mae by writing their first song, “Embers And Envelopes,” in Marshall’s living room. The band’s name is an acronym for “Multi-sensory Aesthetic Experience,” a course Marshall took in college. Mae’s third studio album, Singularity, was released in 2007, and after the album’s release, the band played farewell concerts for several years. One brief hiatus later, the band reformed for a 2013 tour to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the debut Destination: Beautiful album. The band reformed again for a 2015 tour to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the The Everglow album. Mae presently consists of Elkins, Marshall, guitarist Zach Gehring, keyboardist Rob Sweitzer and bassist Mark Padgett.
Performing at the Highline Ballroom amidst a stage set made of hundreds of small clear light bulbs, Mae opened with three songs from its various albums and EPs, then performed the 14 tracks from The Everglow, and returned for an encore of four more assorted songs. Opening with the romantic “I Just Needed You To Know” from the (e)vening EP, Elkins’ calm vocals were front and center. The second song, “Embers And Envelopes,” from the Destination: Beautiful album, was about trying to fix a broken relationship. Part of Mae’s charm was the youthful innocence in the lyrics, which wrestled with the complexities of relationships and the search for meaning, even if sometimes the messages seemed emotionally overcharged.
Elkins frequently encouraged the audience to sing along, to loud response; evidently the Mae audience was spiritually aligned with these emotive phrasings. Throughout the evening, the music was driving, often featuring intricate arrangements. Glistening keyboards (and briefly a violin) intertwined with soaring guitar leads, building up to thick power chords. It sometimes sounded as if Billy Joel dipped into progressive rock. Mae’s performance was intriguing and challenging in that song composition was non-linear and non-traditional. Mae’s performance was more cerebral and heart-aching than that of the common-variety power-pop and emo artists.