Matthew Sweet; June 21, 2009; Vogue Theater, Indianapolis
Last night’s Atlanta Superdrag show had been cancelled due to poor advance ticket sales. A bummer, both because we had come a long way to see them, and because after seeing them in Charlotte I really, really wanted another Superdrag show. What we didn’t know was that it easily could have happened again tonight. Only nineteen advance tickets had been sold for Matthew Sweet’s show at the spacious Vogue Theater in Indianapolis. With a presale like that, they easily could have cancelled the show, instead the show went on and well over a hundred people showed up. Take that Atlanta.
They were all obviously Matthew Sweet fans, otherwise I would have expected some grumbling about the $20 ticket price for an hour set (if that) and no opening act. The no opening act part turned out to be a bit unfortunate. At first we thought it was a good thing, no opener meant home earlier, and well, after seeing the sugary sweet Bridges on Sweet’s last tour I didn’t really want one. However with our second longest drive of the road trip that day and an inexplicable delay on the Interstate we didn’t get there till 8:15. Of course it started on time. Luckily the first song on the set list had been “Divine Intervention,” perhaps the longest tune that he plays live, so he was only on the second song when we made our way to the front of the stage through a loosely dispersed, but attentive, crowd.
The last time I saw Matthew Sweet I was in a boot and on crutches with a broken foot. Though I wasn’t that far from the stage at the Park West, once the show started all I could see from my seat were the backs of the folks in front of me. Though it was a solid set, Sweet’s self doubt and deprecation got a little tiresome. Tonight despite a respiratory infection and what rumor had to be a poor showing the night before in Naperville, he seemed in good spirits, sure of himself and even willing to share a story. It seems a friend of his has decided that they are all going on a hunt to find Bigfoot, whom he is convinced is alive and well and just waiting to be found. Not to spoil their fun, but I’m pretty sure I know where he is- he’s sitting behind the drum kit.
I’d seen Rik Menck once before as a fill in drummer with the Pernice Brothers. I remember being impressed that he had learned all the songs on the plane from LA; I don’t remember him looking like a Neanderthal. For years, Menck and the rest of the band Velvet Crush have been Sweet’s backing band. Tonight however something was different. Usually both Paul Chastain and Peter Phillips play guitar (which along with Sweet is a lot of guitar) while Tony Marsico plays bass. Tonight Tony was absent and Chastain had moved to bass, which I thought made for a leaner sound as he powered through his greatest hits and selections from the new Sunshine Lies.
Other than the fact that it was very short, there was little to complain about in his set. While the true fans probably don’t ever need to hear “Girlfriend” again, I would be disappointed if he didn’t play it. “Sick of Myself” was a rocker and encore “Cinnamon Girl” a barn burner. After that disappointing set in October, this show left a much better taste in my mouth. Although considering Sweet’s outfit, Capri pants, ridiculous shoes and a shirt he must have stolen from Splitlip Rayfield’s bass player, maybe I was better off when I couldn’t see him.