The “punk-frontman-turned-acoustic-troubadour” movement has continued to gain speed over the last several years, as songwriters continue to explore the logical connection between traditional folk music and punk music. Brian Fallon (The Gaslight Anthem, The Horrible Crowes) and Matt Pryor (The Get Up Kids, The New Amsterdams) have taken a slightly different track, playing stripped down versions of songs you know and love already (while Pryor has also started to make a name for himself as a solo musician).
They recently teamed up for an intimate, student-only show at the afterHOURS club at Northeastern University in Boston. Check out my full review and nowhere-near professional-quality pictures here.
The afterHOURS club at Boston’s Northeastern University is essentially an oversized Starbucks portioned off in the student center at Northeastern University in Boston. The Starbucks remains functional during the show, but only to patrons of the show, which gives it the feel of a slightly-larger-than-average (capacity is 276) coffee shop. Flatscreen TV’s displaying advertisements for NU student activities adorn most of the walls. Being an NU-only gig (and me having not been an undergrad there since the turn of the century) also gave me my first real “old guy at the rock show” moment, as I’m 100% sure that the only person in the venue (including Brian Fallon) that was older than me was Pryor himself. Sigh.
With all due respect to the immensely talented and enjoyable Matt Pryor and his fans, this review is not going to do him justice, primarily since I pulled off the totally unprofessional feat of losing my notes from his set. The road-weary Pryor, who told of having spent most of the day in a Dallas airport, kicked the show off around 7:30. The ¾ capacity crowd was quite attentive, yet eerily silent (like…pin-drop silent) while Pryor played. Pryor commented on how bizarre that phenomena…years of touring in rowdier bands tends to provoke more from audiences than, well, the politeness that was very much on display on this evening (good on ya, Huskies!). Pryor comically interrupted during one song by the foaming espresso machine whirring in the background, but was able to maintain his composure (barely) and muster on.
Though he has spent more than a decade fronting bands like the seminal Get Up Kids and the alt-country-ish New Amsterdams, Pryor seems very much at home in front of a crowd while wielding only an acoustic guitar. Pryor was playful, humorous and self-deprecating through his well-received, forty-minute set that pulled from his debut solo album (“It Ends Here,” “Loralai” and the title track from 2008’s “Confidence Man”), his forthcoming solo album (“Where Do We Go From Here” from “May Day,” due out January 24th) and the vast catalogs of his other projects. “Mass Pike,” from The Get Up Kids’ 1999 “Red Letter Day” EP was a pleasant surprise, and didn’t come across as pandering to the hometown crowd (knowing that Pryor is a former Bostonian helps). Hearing Get Up Kids songs without the full instrumentation (especially sans keyboard) made the tracks much weightier and (I think) more meaningful, making it not quite the same to go back and listen to those same songs as they originally appeared. Way to ruin your own band for me, “Matthew”!
The crowd was appropriately warmed up and ready to go by the end of Pryor’s set, setting the table nicely for Fallon to take over. The lack of instrumentation made for quick turnaround between the two acts (always a plus). Fallon took the stage wordlessly, ceremonially unveiling each of his “props” (essentially just his own microphone, capo, tuner and acoustic guitar) one at a time. The wordlessness quickly subsided, as he proceeded to talk for probably five minutes prior to kicking off the night’s first song, “Great Expectations.” Fallon told the crowd that he was putting together a setlist for the evening’s show, but decided to scrap it after only coming up with three songs, so he mostly took requests all night. This created an ongoing interplay between Fallon and the willing crowd, giving the show the feel of a bunch of friends hanging out around a campfire tossing ideas at the one guy who actually brought a guitar (except that the guy who brought the guitar in this case is the guy that actually wrote the songs). Some of the requests didn’t get played (primarily because Fallon admitted to not remembering how they go, having not played some of them in years), but he was pretty astute at getting to everything, while trying to maintain a musical ebb and flow so that the “setlist” didn’t have too many lulls.
Any lulls that were present in the evening came not from the music itself, but from Fallon’s notorious gift of gab. Through twenty minutes into the set, a grand total of three songs had been played (“Old White Lincoln” and “Senor and the Queen” followed the show opener). The ‘tween-song banter didn’t seem forced or excessive, however. Instead, portions of the show took on a “Storytellers” feel. Myriad topics were covered: Pearl Jam (Fallon’s “all-time favorite band”); the propensity for frontmen to use teleprompters (except Dave Grohl); the fact that Fallon has only three songs left to write for the upcoming Gaslight Anthem album; the fact that said album (the band’s major label debut) is due out IN JULY 2012!; the fact that Fallon has really only ever paid for one guitar (not because he gets them for free, but that he keeps trading his guitar in for new ones); the fact that he’s out on the road on his vacation while the rest of the band are sitting at home, making the same amount of money off of Gaslight tunes as Fallon; the tongue-in-cheek idea that Fallon is going to “buy a big boat” with his royalties from the new album; the fact that Gaslight don’t mind people bootlegging and trading their shows; the fact that Gaslight wants to get in to putting out their own bootlegs (without really making money off them) and would like to do a live DVD versus a live album; and a lot more that I’m probably forgetting or that you probably aren’t interested in.
Fallon’s voice was in fine form, and his personality shown through not just in his story telling but in the way he approached and arranged some of the tunes. The songs Fallon chose to actually play reached deep; while a lot came from his primary band’s two biggest albums (“The ’59 Sound” and “American Slang”), the set leaned heavily on the band’s early releases (“Sink or Swim,” the “Senor and the Queen” EP), as well as a b-side from the “American Slang” sessions and a Horrible Crowes track. Here’s the setlist; click any of the highlighted tracks to see video (“American Slang” and “The Diamond Church Street Choir” were shot by me, the others I found trolling YouTube – thanks to whoever uploaded them!).
Old White Lincoln
Senor and the Queen
The Diamond Church Street Choir
High Lonesome (with audience assistance when Fallon forgets the lyrics)
Boomboxes & Dictionaries
Meet Me By The River’s Edge
The ’59 Sound (camera’s mic sounds like it got overloaded)
Miles Davis & The Cool
Blue Jeans and White T-shirts
She Loves You
Where For Art Thou, Elvis?
The Navesink Banks
Here’s Looking At You, Kid
Red At Night (beginning got cut off)
Ladykiller (performed “for the first time without Ian”)