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Sunday, February 4, 2018

REVIEW: Matt The Electrician and Kris Delmhorst

February 2, 2018 - Cactus Cafe (Austin, Texas)



By Sean Claes
Cactus Cafe is a great listening room on the campus of University of Texas and it was the perfect location for an evening and song-swap with Austin's Matt the Electrician and Massachusetts' Kris Delmhorst
This is probably my favorite kind of show, for I feel in an environment like Cactus Cafe singer-songwriters are able to peel some of the layers away from their songs and share stories and inspirations about the creative process. Plus, with this night, it seemed like we were getting a glimpse into the reunion of two friends catching up, laughing and playing together. Almost like they were hanging out in their living room and we got to watch.
Photo by Sean Claes
Matthew Sever is Matt The Electrician. (who, as the name suggests was an electrician in his former life - in the 1990s) took the stage first, shared a few stories, and played a few songs from his discography, which runs a dozen records deep. 
Photo by Sean Claes
Just before launching into a fantastically speedy rendition of "Change The Subject" (from  2007's One Thing Right) he mentioned that February 3 was going to be the 14th anniversary of his quitting drinking alcohol and the song was written after attending a potluck/gathering with his wife, the week he decided to quit drinking, where he knew nobody. That gave a whole new perspective to the opening lyrics: " If I never gave up drinking / I would surely have a beer right now / Talking politics and religion / I don't wanna be here right now."

He also played "The Bear" and "California" off his 2017 release The Doubles which is a collection of the 7" singles he's released along with renditions of those tracks featuring the trio with which he currently performs.

A treat of being in a listening room setting is artists sometimes try out new material. Sever debuted a song that he'd never played live, which I believe is called "Angels Chasing After Me." He realized, and pointed out during the track, that the riff he was using was the same as "What's So Funny" off his 2009 release Animal Boy and promised to change it. He explained that this show was his first gig of 2018 after taking about six weeks off, the longest time away from stage since he'd begun his career.
Honestly, if he'd not mentioned it, nobody would have known he'd not played live in a minute... but it made for a few funny references. Once he played his set, it was Kris Delmhorst's time to take the stage.
Whereas Sever has a laid back, conversational and sometimes quirky approach to his storytelling style, Delmhorst has what I'd describe as a classic singer-songwriter style. Her songs are beautifully composed stories of life and love. 
Photo by Sean Claes
I was first introduced to Delmhorst's music in 2003 with the release of her Songs For A Hurricane. She was a regular performer at Cambridge, Massachusetts' Club Passim where my sister and brother-in-law frequented.  I caught her in 2007 (I think) during SXSW at a restaurant-turned music venue on 6th street. I recall that, while being impressed with her music, the venue didn't suit her. Well, fast forward a decade and The Cactus Cafe made for the perfect backdrop to showcase her beautiful voice and poetic lyrics. 

She settled onto the stage after a fun little volley with Sever where he couldn't think of the city in Massachusetts where she hailed from, so it was dubbed "Northernville." 
With 12 albums under her belt, she also had a dearth of great material to pull from. Delmhorst is touring on the release of her 2017 album The Wild. She treated the crowd to songs off the album like "Temporary Existance" and "Rules To Games."

After her set, they took a short break. When that concluded, both Sever and Delmhorst took the stage together and riffed off each other while playing back-up to each other's songs. Sever switched from guitar to trumpet and Delmhorst switched from guitar to violin. It was definitely a wonderful sight to behold.
Photo By Sean Claes

Probably my favorite song of the night was a track that Delmorst never released and I can find zero reference to it online. Her and Sever are part of a songwriters game that consists of a song title being sent to them on a Monday and they have a week to turn it into a finished song. During the play of this game, the title "Russian Girl" was sent out. She turned it into a great tongue-in-cheek song about a friend who has been in the dating pool for a long time... recalling that he should consider a fantastically flawed girl he'd once dated (might be insane, drank a lot, but she recalled he thought she was "OK").

Photo by Sean Claes

If you ever get the chance to see Matt The Electrician or Kris Delmhost live, it's totally worth it and you will leave musically fed. Those who were lucky enough to see them together... well.. we got one of those once-in-a-lifetime treats that will go in the books as a beautiful musical memory.



1 comment:

  1. The green light remained steadfastly on reduced doorway for all long moments.

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