Hot Mulligan lent its spring tour to Berkeley’s Cornerstone on Tuesday night, bringing all the tenacity and energy it could muster as soon as the lights went down. After performing at Cornerstone last fall on tour with Microwave, the Michigan emo rock band came back to headline a five-band lineup.
The band began its set without missing a beat, starting off with some of the bigger hits such as “Dary.” The crowd sang every word out loud as main vocalist Tades Sanville flew through the whirlwind choruses. Guitarist Chris Freeman provided intense accompanying vocals throughout the song, adding a stylistic strain to highlight the edgy-folk vein the band carries in most of its music.
In the breaks between songs, Sanville often took the opportunity to talk to the crowd and tell stories from the tour so far. During one break, Sanville talked about an enlightening phone call he had with his father before the band embarked on the tour. A shocking anecdote about Sanville looking into his medical records involved the singer discovering his mother to be an anti-vaxxer; he had to catch up on years of vaccinations before going on the tour.
In the end, seemingly nothing could hold this band back — literally and metaphorically. During song after song, Sanville leaned fully into the crowd while belting skewering lyrics. His fervor and stamina were consistently impressive throughout the show, often leaning on the spastic side as he lunged and bounced from one side of the stage to the other.
The performance of “Jimmy Neutron Had a Dog So Why Can’t I Have a Friend?” embodied Hot Mulligan’s greatest strengths, blending the solid performance energy with first-class instrumental talent. The familial dynamics among the band members spoke to the closeness of the band.
Sanville had a captivating way of communicating emotion through his vocals, which came together with the authoritative instrumentals to channel what each song is truly about. This energy transferred into the audience as the halcyon crowd jumped around, aggressively pointing fingers up at the boys of Hot Mulligan. Almost every song led to at least one person surfing on the crowd up to the stage, a wave of lifted hands ready to throw whoever was coming next.
As the starting chords of “I Fell in Love With Princess Peach” fell from Freeman’s guitar, a person in the crowd yelled, “Finally!” to which Sanville responded, “Oh, ‘finally,’ she says.” One of the band’s more popular songs, its howling vocals were a bit out of reach for Sanville. “I can’t hit those notes — I’m just screaming,” he said. Regardless, the screams fit perfectly into the rowdy scene the band created.
Full of twists and turns, one involving a blow-up dolphin being launched into the sea of fans, the performance of “Wes Dault Can’t Find the Madison Falcon” included Sanville kneeling down next to the crowd to serenade a section of the barricade.
During “How Do You Know It’s Not Armadillo Shells?” a member of the audience spent a little too much time onstage after surfing to the front, dancing among the band members and yelling back at the crowd. A notable faux pas that appears in concerts time and time again, it caught the attention of Sanville, who led the surfer back into the crowd with a push and asked, “You OK?” after the audience member took a dive off the stage. The band finished the set with a performance of “Legen,” the short 1-minute-20-second outro to the band’s newest album SYG Years, released just last year. Between “Legen” and “Dary,” you can guess what Hot Mulligan brings to the table every time.