It’s August 23rd, towards the tail end of summer — but on this night in Columbus, Ohio, it’s never felt more like a fall evening. It’s in the low to mid. 70’s, cloudy with just the perfect breeze. Not too hot to where you need to where shorts and a t-shirt trying to minimize sweating, but not too cool to where you can’t where comfortable clothes and just relax.
It’s also the perfect weather for fans to line up early — and in bunches — at the A&R Music Bar for rising indie/alternative artist, Matt Maeson. He’s had an incredible year, releasing his debut album, Bank on the Funeral, back in April, which gave way to a sold out U.S. headlining tour, debut late-night performance on Late Night With Seth Meyers, and his single “Cringe” is now in it’s third week at #1 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart.
Before Maeson comes on, I head to the bar, grab a drink, and look at the crowd around me. It’s a sold out show at the roughly 400 cap venue, this time housing an impressively eclectic audience. It’s an admirable mix of young and old fans, men and women, with everyone naturally having one thing in common: their excitement for Matt Maeson.
A little after 9pm, the lights dim to a simple combination of green and blue lights — something that sticks throughout, never changing or varying in colors. The crowd gets eerily quiet, but when Maeson walks out with a long, plain black t-shirt and black jeans, the crowd erupts with excitement. When he opens the set with “Hallucinogenics,” that eclectic audience lifts their phones in the air and starts singing along with him; mimicking his elegant and soft singing, with not a minor care in the world at this given moment.
Joined by two touring musicians on guitar and drums, who act as more than just complimentary pieces to the show, they truly add to the live show and overall experience. Together, they bust through the first three songs before taking their first break of the evening. Maeson thanks the crowd for selling out his first headlining show in Columbus, and for sounding great singing back to him. By the time the fifth song, “Feel Good,” comes on, he is showing off his impressive vocal range. It’a a slow, acoustic burner that provides an intimate atmosphere between the crowd and Matt. After the track ends, he pauses to talk about Bank on the Funeral, and even calls out someone in the audience for shaking beer on everyone around them.
When he opens the next song, “Beggar’s Song,” an illustrious amount of cheers come from the audience. There’s a special energy that radiates throughout the venue when the line “I’m a beat down, washed up, son of a bitch” — serving as a moment of catharsis for all 400 or so in attendance. A larger than life cheer erupts at the end, once again proving to be an exhilarating moment for fans, as “I’mma be damned if I let it keep me down” is a line that means something more to them.
Throughout the set, from a crowd perspective, you can hear fans shouting various things out to Maeson and his band. As much as the flattering “I love you’s” undoubtedly matter to him, he doesn’t respond. It’s not at all likely he’s intentionally ignoring them, more so seemingly being so deeply invested into his performance. It’s an impressive performance, as he puts himself into a place where he can give the best version of himself for the fans that paid to see him. He dives into he upbeat indie/alternative “Go Easy” and gets everyone tapping their feet and swaying amongst themselves again. I look off to my left, and there’s a couple in the audience that turn to each other and dramatically — in a good way — sing the chorus to one another. I, of course, don’t have the slightest clue of what this song means to them, but it seemingly doesn’t matter; all that matters is how means something to them, a gentle reminder of how powerful music can be.
After the song he ends, he does the common tip of sharing with the crowd the location of his merch towards the back of the venue, encouraging them to stop by after the set. Up front, someone yells out to him about how they are already wearing his merch at the show. This he hears, giving them a response of “good” — a subtle level of appreciation for the fan. Maeson introduces the song “Me and My Friends Are Lonely,” and shares the backstory behind the song. Although admittedly, as I am near the back of the venue, I’m unable to clearly hear the entire story.
The tenth song of the evening is “Cringe,” and Maeson shares that this has newly hit #1 not the alternative radio charts for Billboard — an incredible accomplishment that seems like it’s destined to be the first of many. While it receives an impressive response from he crowd, when it’s cover, it seems like no one leaves. It may be his most popular song at this time, but there’s barely movement amongst the audience. It’s as if there’s barely any interest in leaving or bailing out after his most successful single in terms of radio play — proving a genuine interest in everything Maeson sings. It serves as a strong testament to his connection with he fans and everyone in attendance. When the track ends, they waste no time jumping into the next song, “The Mask” before ending on the somber “Bank on the Funeral.” Towards the end, Maeson thanks the audience for coming out before closing out the set with the instrumental bridge/breakdown, and then walking off set.
Once again, there’s very little audience movement as all three musicians walk off stage. Instead, they stay behind yelling, clapping, and yelling some more for an encore. It’s the call that every artist inevitably waits for and wants when they pick up their instrument of choice for the first time. Maeson eventually comes back out all on his own, jokingly introducing the song “Wonderwall,” before diving into “Cliffy.” Eventually, the touring musicians come out and join Maeson on stage, before closing out the set with fan-favorite, “Mr. Rattlebone.”
It’s been quite the year for Matt Maeson. His headlining tour proved to be a massive success, selling out almost every date. Wrapped in the middle where appearances at major festivals, and of course, the aforementioned #1 single, “Cringe.” With that now running on it’s third week at #1, it seems like this is just the beginning for Maeson. He’s aimed to be more than just this one song, destined to resist the fading away into “one hit wonder” territory. The impressive audience participation showed that this night, as their voices singing “Cringe” were just was loud on the other thirteen tracks played that night.
If this is just the beginning, it’s been one hell of an impressive debut throughout all of 2019. The future looks bright, and undoubtedly, Maeson is ready to continue making his mark.