Jack’s Mannequin. At UCSB’s The Hub, Thursday, October 30.

Orange County Piano Rockers Start Halloween off Right

After two solid performances by openers Treaty of Paris and Eric Hutchinson, Jack’s Mannequin took the stage on Thursday night at The Hub. A bearded Andrew McMahon (Jack’s lead singer and songwriter) sauntered over to his piano wearing an old green t-shirt, his hair long, and tied in a ponytail. McMahon offered a clear-eyed smile to the crowd, made up mostly of costume-clad UCSB students, before the house lights went down and the band launched into “Crashing,” off the recently released Glass Passenger. It didn’t take long for the place to respond, as the audience immediately began jumping and dancing at the song’s opening lines of “I want to hear some music.”

The stage could barely hold McMahon’s exuberance. He spent his set riding the piano bench like a mechanical bull, then skipping laps around the stage. At the end of the song, he proudly assumed a Statue of Liberty pose, hoisting his mike like a flame of truth.

McMahon sings like he’s telling you something which could change your life - like he’s relaying information that changed his life. But only once did Thursday’s performance directly allude to the singer’s recent bout with cancer. During his solemn performance of “Caves” he belted lyrics like, “I’m caught somewhere in between alive and living a dream.”

An avid between-song talker, McMahon jokingly questioned the pre-Halloween Isla Vista revelers with questions, feigning mad professor obsession when he begged, “You know the best house to play beer pong? Tell me now! I must know.” He then apologized, saying, “We’ve gotten the crowd all riled up right before one of our softest songs” before launching into the emotional “Hammers and Strings (A Lullaby).”

A few songs into the set, guitarist Bobby Anderson played the opening chords to “The Mixed Tape,” off of the band’s debut album, 2005’s Everything in Transit. The crowd erupted at the sound, causing even the girls in back of the beer garden to jump up and down. It was during this sonic throwback that nearly every member of the audience seemed to be singing along, holding their hands on their hearts as if they’d been pierced by something - perhaps feeling understood by a 26-year-old man who plays a mean piano.

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