Over the weekend, mewithoutYou performed a final pair of shows in Philadelphia. We had more time with them than we deserved. In addition to the band’s two decades of music, their planned retirement was announced back in 2020. Those plans were waylaid by the pandemic, which ultimately meant we got two more years of what has quietly been one of the most influential theological acts of our era.
mewithoutYou came from the Christian hardcore boom of the early 2000s, touring alongside bands like Norma Jean. But while they were in that scene, they were not entirely of it, quickly shifting to more eclectic music that defied easy categorization. It was a little bit Neutral Milk Hotel, a little bit Pixies and a little bit Joanna Newsom. Frontman Aaron Weiss’ raw, cathartic writing plumbed the depths of his own battles with depression, but also explored biblical theology as well as wisdom from sources like the Bhagavad Gita and Sufi mysticism. Weiss was open about things like suicidal ideation and prayers that seem to bounce off the ceiling but was also capable of moments of celebratory hope and even worship.
They were never huge. That wasn’t in the cards for a band this odd. But they built a devoted following, including many young Christians who found their honest reflections to be a refreshing alternative from the “encouraging, positive” music many of us were raised on. And as the band’s profile spread by word of mouth, their lore grew along with it. The band lived what they preached: dumpster diving for dinners, hosting potlucks with fans and touring the country in a van that ran on vegetable oil. They rebuffed even the most meager perks of success, calling to mind the likes of other left-of-center spiritual touchstones like Rich Mullins.
Their final shows will be for sale next month, and you can see a lot of videos from the packed out finale online. The sold out crowd included former Chariot frontman Josh Scogin (who joined them for “Messes of Men”) and the great Julien Baker, who requested “My Exit, Unfair.” The band didn’t let her down.
— Julien Baker (@julienrbaker) August 19, 2022
This is a band who taught a small but very curious segment of the populace a new way of thinking about their faith. There’s a lot of Christians out there who can chart the chapters of their spiritual journey by the mewithoutYou albums that soundtracked them. Many of those people have families of their own now. Some might be pastoring churches. Others are working with the homeless and hungry in their areas. And in that way, this band’s influence will spread far, far beyond the measure of other, more household name-type acts. They had a great run. They’re done for now. But they’ll never die.