Friday, June 20, 2008

Matthew Ryan VS the Silver State/Josh Joplin; June 20, 2008; High Noon Saloon

Matthew Ryan definitely had a case of residual alcohol syndrome. RAS, as I’m calling it in my NIH grant application (kidding), is the tendency for a person to get drunk much quicker the night after drinking heavily. While admittedly it probably has much more to do with dehydration than it does with any residual alcohol floating around in the blood stream, it’s still my handy explanation for all kinds of things. Like Matthew Ryan’s high spirits and gleeful wooing, for instance.

What I had at first mistaken for light-hearted bemusement turned out to be a charmingly full-blown case of RAS, he admitted that he and the drummer had been out much too late the night before and he sure felt like he was drunk after only one drink tonight. But he’s certainly a happy drunk, he had a smile on his face the entire night, and he couldn’t resist answering the crowd’s woo’s with a few of his own. What he apparently didn’t understand is that in Wisconsin we have to scream our approval, since clapping is difficult with a drink in one hand all the time.

And there was plenty to cheer about. While I enjoyed his set at Gil’s where he was joined by just a guitar player Brian Bequette (the same one who was with him tonight), I always found his Regret Over the Wires disc unremarkable, though to be fair I haven’t listened to it in years. The material he is showcasing on this tour comes from the new Matthew Ryan Vs the Silver State disc, its unwieldy moniker is also the name of his band. Any competition between Ryan and the rest of the band is purely good natured though, as they all seemed to be having a blast on stage. He opened with the track that Jon Dee had spoken so highly of after touring with Ryan on the first leg of this tour. “It Could Have Been Worse,” with its quotable line “he promised her everything… without really knowing what everything was,” is perhaps one of the catchiest songs on the record. Ryan’s bouncy melody hides a deeper meaning that Jon Dee’s reading of it seemed to hint at. (though the fact that it was the first song made me wonder if that was all of the set Jon Dee ever saw).

The band followed him through most of the songs on that record, happily translating the songs to a live setting. Violinist Molly Chambers added lovely backing vocals that really add both to the live and recorded material. Even after the encore when the band was ready to call it a night, Ryan returned with his guitar to play unplugged on the floor, surrounded by a crowd of adoring fans. After seeing him with a dozen other folks at Gil’s, I was actually surprised at the crowd at the High Noon. It seems that this may finally be the record that breaks him out singer-songwriter obscurity and up to at least cult status.

Opener Josh Joplin has had his moment in the spotlight already. Even though “Camera One” was a respectable hit a few years back, you would never have guessed that anyone in the audience had even heard of him. I guarantee when he finished his set with that song, a handful of people were thinking “what a strange songs to cover,” while another bunch were saying, “ah, so he’s that guy,” and maybe wished they would have paid a little more attention to his delightful but low key set. I had seen Joplin a number of times in the extensive tour that followed that song, he always seemed to be paired with artists (Matthew Sweet, the Old 97’s, the Honeydogs) that guaranteed I would be there. On every occasion I enjoyed his enthusiastic playing and often witty banter. Tonight he was having a hard time getting people to listen. In particular one group at the near end of the bar, kept up a constant conversation, which he did not let go unnoted.

He told the story behind a song focused on the irony of going to many games as a child when he didn’t actually care much about football, ending with the comment, “kind of like those people,” as he gestured in their direction, following that with a resigned, “well, they paid their 15 dollars.” The sad thing was, they hadn’t. After making sure they were gone, Ryan admitted that he had let them in free because they said they weren’t going to pay. Other than that distraction, Joplin obviously enjoyed being in Madison again, spending a lot of time discussing our car vs bike mentality which he found quite intriguing. It wasn’t Jon Dee Graham, but it was still entertaining.


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DarkoV said...

Great Reveiw of Mr. Ryan's performance. Here's hoping he does make it to cult status and that he doesn't get confused with this Matt Ryan (now of the Atlanta Falcons).
I believe the fiddle player's name is Molly Thomas, not Molly Chambers, though.