“Ha, look at that guy,” I remark as a man with flowing black hair zips by on a skateboard. “He’s totally going to The Orwells” I joke. That’s when I stop dead in my tracks — the skateboarding figure that just passed me on the streets of Columbus wasn’t a fan, but frontman of the band, Mario Cuomo. Naturally, we tracked him down so we could get the chance to say hi.
Now, when you meet Mario, he is sweet and almost shy. It’s endearing, really. He seems like a kid caught up in a crazy band, and you just want to hug him and tell him he’s okay, that the pressure of stardom won’t break him, and he could come out of his shell a little.
If you’ve ever seen The Orwells, you know this isn’t the Mario you see on stage. The stage performances are almost completely encompassed by Cuomo performing like you would expect a member of the Sex Pistols to — bugging his eyes at the audience, glaring at random fans, letting other lucky ones run their fingers through his hair as he sings forehead to forehead with them. The shows are truly unlike any other band in the industry, which makes wonder — why aren’t they more popular?
And sometimes I think — maybe this is how they like it. When you see The Orwells, it’s always intimate and it’s always unique. No matter what, you are probably in a distance to get Marios sweat on you. It feels like seeing a garage band and having the freedom to let loose because you’re surrounded by friends and family. Despite opening for Arctic Monkeys on their tour for AM, appearances on Letterman, and booking large festivals, the band has maintained more of a cult following than they have made themselves what I call “mainstream alternative” (like say, MUSE, Vampire Weekend or Phoenix).
The devotion of this cult following definitely stems from their live shows. Once you see them, you’re hooked. Cuomo knows that he’s doing something right by putting on a show, and it’s important to him that he is creating a unique experience for his fans. In an interview, he describes his intentions as a show “where at the end, you’re like, I might s–t my pants, but now I just want more.”
The show in question certainly didn’t lack the aforementioned energy. From the first song to the last, Mario delivered his trademark antics coupled with stellar vocals and his bandmates — Henry Brinner on drums, Matt O’Keefe on guitar, and Grant Brinner on bass — delivered a flawless musical performance. The crowd was feeding off of Mario’s craziness and the fast paced music as they moshed, screamed the words, and let loose. I can say with certainty that I haven’t seen such passionate fans in a long while. Of course, their shows don’t just rely on Mario putting on a performance — the music is excellent as the band seems to effortlessly deliver song after song.
I hope that The Orwells continue their trend of playing quaint shoes for passionate fans, but when they start playing the bigger venues they deserve, I will be ecstatic. Mark my words — they will become huge, so see these intimate shows while you can.