Over the years I’ve found that it can be really difficult to get people to come to a show on a weeknight, with Mondays and Tuesdays being probably the worst. Matt the Electrician’s crowd has grown every time he’s played at the house, so I was hoping it could overcome an early weeknight show. Then I found out the Packers were playing on Monday Night Football, and to make it worse it was against the Bears. Despite the odds, the basement was still half full for another set of his charming songs.
Gerald Dowd joked that he would love to play anytime I needed a “low draw opener.” Other than Count This Penny , who nearly sold out the basement all on their own when they opened for Loves It!, the local openers usually don’t draw many people. I love having my favorite local musicians play, but I’m always surprised more people don’t come to see them. So the joke was on Dowd, because several people came just because he was on the bill. And he rewarded them with a set of clever originals with a few well-chosen covers thrown in. He had come straight from the airport after a weekend gig with Justin Roberts in San Francisco and didn’t have any of his EPs with him. But if he had, he definitely could have sold a few. Instant classics like the tear in my beer country weeper “I Didn’t Finish Drinking Last Night” and the infectious “I Do,” with its catchy chorus “I want to say I don’t like to make you cry, but I do,” were the stand-outs in his short set. Many people know Dowd as the drummer for Robbie Fulks and Chris Mills, and he paid tribute to the latter by playing a “quick Chris Mills song.” The under a minute “Girl on the Train” is just that, and it was truly great to hear him play it. It was great just to have him play.
Turns out Matt the Electrician was the perfect show to ask him to open, he’s a big fan and turned around and spent all the money I paid him on Matt’s CDs. I don’t really blame him, Matt’s songs are always winning and upbeat, not to mention smart and well-written. He’s also a terrific storyteller and many of his songs have great stories behind them. Like the one that was written in a haunted house in the UK somewhere during a songwriting workshop. His writing partner was having relationship trouble, and Matt thought the song they had written about haunting was actually about her soon to be ex boyfriend. When they met up again years later he found out she was really just writing about ghosts. He also played several songs on his “banji-lele,” a teeny tiny banjo that I wanted desperately to be called a "man-jo.". He said that because he sometimes plays the banjo he gets asked to lead banjo workshops. He advised us that if we wanted to learn to play, stay away from those. Self-deprecating humor is also one of his endearing traits. Many of his songs focus heavily on his family, but they avoid sappy and nail the honesty. One song was written during a “break” from dating the woman who would become his wife. He said that while they are certainly happy now, things may have been better if they hadn’t gotten back together.
He doesn’t play any of these songs for sympathy, but just to be honest. Refreshing.
Matt the Electrician