Matt the Electrician/Vid Libert; October 19, 2008; Kiki’s House of Righteous Music
I had only seen Matt the Electrician once before. He was sitting in with an abbreviated version of the Resentments for their regular Sunday night gig at Austin’s Saxon Pub. I had skipped the last couple hours of the final night of the ACL festival, hours that had included Wilco and whoever the big headliner was that year, for a chance to see Jon Dee Graham’s All Star Band in their native habitat. I was impressed enough with his songs during this song swap of sorts to jump at the chance to have him play at the house. Of course, the fact that he is friends with Jon Dee also had more than a little to do with it.
So I’d seen him play once and I’d listened to his MySpace songs, but that didn’t prepare me for how engaging he would be playing a solo show as he switched between an acoustic guitar and a much smaller instrument. I theorized that it was a “manjo,” a cross between a mandolin and a banjo. Disappointingly it turned out to be a “mandolele” a mandolin-ukulele hybrid. Despite having only released a couple of CDs, he had a surprising amount of original material which easily filled two lengthy sets. His easy-going manner and conversational tone made every story he told like an anecdote between friends rather than any sort of prepared banter. He opened the night with two songs written for his children. He admitted that while his daughter seemed to think it was great that he had a written a song for her, it’s her younger brother who more completely grasped the fact that the song was about him. “Animal Boy” is a light-hearted tune about how much little boys can eat, all told from the first person as everyone tells him “You are an animal boy, hungry all the time, you are an animal boy, are you ever satisfied?” In fact, his son has used “But I’m the animal boy” as a comeback to the protest “you just ate, how can you possibly be hungry?”
That song and several others in the set came from his delightful new CD Fresh, which is so far only available as a tour only release. Most of his songs were new to me, but there was one I knew all the words to, his cover of Jon Dee’s “Majesty of Love.” Before playing that simple stunning love song, he spent a moment elaborating on Jon Dee’s recent car accident which occurred when he feel asleep at the wheel driving home after a gig in Dallas, and how he was lucky to be alive, mentioning the fact that he was, amazingly, already playing shows again despite losing a spleen and a lot of blood. Surprisingly, it was also the most disappointing song in his set. It turns out that I don’t want to hear anyone other than Jon Dee sing his songs.
Perhaps the only other disappointment was that more people didn’t come out for the show. Sure, Matt has only played Madison maybe once before, but I thought a nice mention in the Onion and the fact that the talented Vid Libert was opening would get a few more people out on a Sunday night. Oh well, their loss as Vid played perhaps one of the best sets I have seen him do, and yes, of course I am a little biased. With guitar and pedal steel player Mike and drummer Christopher behind him he ran through his collection of mostly light-hearted, quirky tunes. The moody “Twilight” and hopeful “Maybe That’s Enough” were highlights of his terrific opening set. Perhaps my favorite was his ode to his day job “Custodian” which was part of the solo portion that closed his set. I’d waited a long time to get Vid and his band into the basement, it was worth the wait.