The Knockturnal covered Matt Maeson’s explosive performance at Brooklyn Steel on October 29th
Nearing the end of his lauded The Day You Departed tour, Maeson sold out the East Williamsburg venue, playing a variety of tracks from his debut album Bank on the Funeral and his two EPs Who Killed Matt Maeson and The Hearse.
On Tuesday night, Maeson stood on a blue lit stage in front of an expectant audience and told the origin story of “Beggar’s Song,” a standout track on his debut album Bank on the Funeral. Maeson, who spoke frankly and with purpose, described the feeling of hitting rock bottom after an alcohol fueled two day-long bender at SXSW a couple years back. Sitting in his camper with his guitar at the end of the day, he wrote “Beggar’s Song” in one fell swoop, a track that became as much an expression of pleading as an anthem of redemptive perseverance. This story, authentic in its delivery and raw with emotion, was indicative of the rest of Maeson’s show, one that felt largely cathartic for both performer and audience.
A Virginia Beach native, Maeson’s path to success as an artist has been anything but linear. He spent a portion of his young adulthood addicted to drugs, estranged from his family, and in jail. Religion played a formative role throughout his youth, the byproduct of which you can feel vibrating in the gospel undertones of his music. Maeson cleaned up his act and invested in his craft, gaining an early following that has grown exponentially since the release of Bank. With commanding vocals, Maeson’s lyrics exude the depth of vulnerability and originality that many artists in the alternative space lack; you get the impression his experiences have not just affected him but rather completely transformed how he perceives those things that bring us the greatest grievances in life – love, death, addiction.
Barreling into his set with “Tread on Me,” it was clear Tuesday’s show would cater to Maeson’s versatility as a rock musician. Switching between electric and acoustic guitars throughout the night, Maeson shifted seamlessly between stripped versions of his songs, such as “Tribulation,” to more production heavy experiments like “Mr. Rattlebone.” Bouncing around the stage for most of the set, he left little time for a breather between songs, often bursting from one’s closing to another’s opening. While Maeson has found success promoted as a solo artist, his passionate performance on Tuesday could be greatly attributed to the energy of his accompanying band, made up of drummer Tyler Johnson and guitarist/keyboardist Kim Vi, impressive musicians in their own right.
There were moments throughout the night where the production felt unnecessarily overlayed, and Maeson could have thrived in veering away from relying on amplified, drum-anchored numbers toward a softer, melodic approach that plays to his strengths. There were no shortages of catchy riffs, and each chorus seemed to have a reinvigorating effect on the audience’s collective spirit – a testament to Maeson’s skill as a songwriter in teasing out the instinctual and feeling-centric common denominator that is suffering.
Much to his audience’s delight, Maeson closed out the night with one of his most popular songs “Hallucinogenics,” whose early verse “My cigarette burnt my finger ‘cause I forgot I lit it” to me eerily signaled what a night out in Brooklyn could have in store for any of its city dwellers. Those that were in attendance Tuesday had an electric response to Maeson, and are rightly looking forward to his return.