Ever since the E Von Dahl Killed the Locals reunion tour in 2014, the Matches have been playing at least one show a year. Nearing the end of September, there still was no word on a 2017 Matches show. Until there was. Five days after the announcement was made.
They were playing the Ivy Room in Berkeley, a tiny bar capped at 200. I saw Dr. Frank and Surrogate Brains here in January, so I know it’s definitely more of a bar than an actual venue. I’m not sure if the band realized that while booking the show, though. We’re really gonna cram 200 people in here tonight, huh?
Of course the show sold out in less than 10 seconds.
I have my ways and was able to get three friends into the show who were unable to secure tickets. That always makes me feel good to spread the love to other fans. One of them was Robert, a waiter at one of my favorite restaurants, The Homeroom. He always gives me discounts on mac’n’cheese, so I HAD to get him into this show. I was really happy to help.
And because it was such short notice, none of my out-of-state friends were able to make it this year. Which means the responsibility of bringing confetti fell on my shoulders rather than Michelle’s, as she was, ya know, on the other coast and all.
I put the confetti sticks I brought in an Amoeba bag to pass out to people in line before the show. I stuck mine between my boobs, and proceeded to hug the entire band that way. They know me. I’m sure they weren’t surprised.
Guitarist Jon Devoto asked me what was in the Amoeba bag, and I very suspiciously hid the bag behind my back and said “Nothing…” Yeah. He totally knew what I was up to. I have zero tact.
Of course, the venue is just a bar, so they didn’t even bother checking…anything…as we went in. So I could’ve gotten away with just holding the Amoeba bag rather than using my boobs for smuggling purposes, but ya know. Part of the fun, I guess.
The Matches’ manager Pablo greeted me with “Marshall!” and a kiss on the cheek when he saw me. He’s one of my favorite humans, but I’m always surprised when people know my last name, especially the manager of my favorite band.
I got a spot right in front of the tiny stage, basically directly in front of lead singer Shawn Harris. Did I mention the stage was tiny? My poor shins might not survive the night. Oh well. Worth it?
We soon noticed toilet paper onstage. I immediately started laughing because the band gets it now. I am going to destroy the venue with confetti, so now they’re going to outdo the crowd in the mess making department…with toilet paper.
Turns out the toilet paper belonged to the opening band, Gnarboots. They were friggin weird. I wasn’t a fan of their music to be honest, but the performance itself was absolutely insane. I figured it was as close to an Isocracy show as I’d ever get. Isocracy was known in the early 90s East Bay Gilman scene for throwing literal trash at the audience. They’re kinda my life goals. So Gnarboots was fun.
They had so much…stuff. Balloons, glitter (which got dumped directly on my head—payback for my glitter explosion in 2015, I’m sure), a giant cloth parachute thing like kindergarteners play with, and obviously the toilet paper, which I had wrapped around my neck. I just continued to wear it all night. Why not.
Shawn was totally playing along with all the crazy. It was great. I love how into his openers he always gets. It’s honestly the best.
At one point the guy stuck the microphone in my face to scream “The power of Gnarboots compels you!” But uh… Just like the last time I saw the Matches (a whole year ago) I was sick. And had no voice. So the microphone in my face was a little more annoying than anything else at this point.
After Gnarboots left the stage, a girl next to me asked if I came alone.
“No one’s ever alone at a Matches show!”
I told her I probably knew about 10% of the people there at least. Honestly I think my estimate might’ve even been a little low. There were 200 people there, and I’m sure I knew more than 20 of them. ANYWAY.
I introduced her to Mandy and Victoria, and she asked if we all know each other. Cue Victoria’s husband James:
“Everyone knows Lindsay.”
Victoria runs an Etsy shop called The Emobroidery Project, where she makes badass embroidered hoops and matching pins with Matches lyrics (and some other bands too). She brought a few sets of pins to sell at the show, and Shawn was advertising for her before doors opened. Mandy bought a set and gave me one of her pins. It was really sweet and unexpected and honestly I just love my music fam so much.
This tiny little bar show was Matches show #12 for both me and Victoria we discovered. Sweet!
And finally, our boys make an appearance.
Shawn: “Everyone that we wanted to be here is here so that’s awesome.”
Me: “Well almost everyone…”
It was weird being sans Michelle, but the confetti was there in her honor.
It’s a Matches show, so naturally they got off to a start with technical difficulties of some sort, so Shawn held the mic out and had each of us sing the “Oooooo”s at the beginning of “Audio Blood” one at a time until they were able to start playing the song.
Jon: “We’re already out of tune!”
Me: “It’s a real Matches show!”
Shawn: “One at a time. We’re going from this corner of the room to that corner of the room.”
Bassist Justin San Souci’s wife and rock doc Bleeding Audio director Chelsea Christer and Brent Walsh of I the Mighty were obviously in attendance, and were planning on chilling for the first few songs, but then the band pulled a fast one on all of us by opening with “Audio Blood.” It’s just SO GOOD and probably one of my favorite songs they do live. Chelsea and Brent couldn’t stand not partying to it, so there they were, right behind me in the pit.
My favorite part of “Audio Blood” live is when it gets quiet toward the end of the song and the entire crowd crouches down and jumps up. It was such a tiny “venue” that it was quite the struggle, but we did it.
Shawn: “We are Gnarboots. The power of Gnaroots compels you!”
I attempted to get video of another of my favorites, “Little Maggots,” but it was so chaotic in there, my god.
Shawn: “Just when you thought you were too old to get a stranger’s sweat on you.”
Okay so this heat. I was glad I kept the toilet paper around my neck because I was using it to mop my face up. I was GROSS. But it was so hot in there that the toilet paper was getting so wet that it was just falling off in clumps. EW. By the end of the night I was so soaked through it looked like I’d jumped in a pool and needed to be wrung out and hung up to dry. Seriously, it was bad.
Also it was such a small room for such a rambunctious crowd. I had horrible bruises on my legs, scratches on my shins, and I almost knocked Shawn’s mic over so many times. Pablo was my saving grace, though, as he is. He had to sit on the stage protecting both those of us in the front as well as the band. He caught crowdsurfers even though the venue was far too small for that, yet it kept happening anyway. People are dumb. (…I’m generally one of those dumb people, but…yeah.)
He really came in clutch watching out for me and Mandy all night. At one point we asked him where the air was coming from and he walked over to us and pointed it out because we were dying.
Me: “MY THEME SONG!”
Because sick. Again. No voice. Again. Just like the last time I saw them. Always.
But for real, I love this song live. Jon’s dancing, for one, never fails to amuse the crap out of me.
Aaaaand here’s a crowdsurfer.
Jon: “Oh shit.”
Toward the end of the song, Shawn starts headbanging so much that his hat falls off.
Jon: “You blew your brains out, she blew her neck out, she blew her knees out.”
“Chain Me Free” will always kill me in the best way.
I’ve always loved this song so much too. E Von Dahl Killed the Locals is just so good, y’all.
Can someone please propose to me with this song? Please? No? Okay.
There’s a harmonizing part at the end of “Didi” and Shawn coordinates the crowd, half singing each opposing line simultaneously. I really love that part.
Oh good, a slightly calmer song. It’s so hot in this bar MY GOD. Jon solo’d on a speaker at one point, but like, it’s so tiny a room anyway. Then Shawn lost his hat again, throwing it off at that big part at the end of the song when it explodes. But now his hair is looking mighty sweaty. It’s a baseball hat for once, by the way, and not a huge flat one like he normally wears these days.
Shawn: “That was a new one! Newish.”
Me: “You need a new new one!”
Jon: “New for the past 10 years.”
Shawn: “I know, I know. Soundcloud rappers are putting out four albums a year. Remember 2002? Well good, cuz that’s what we’re here to do tonight.”
Cue me waltzing by my lonesome.
Shawn: “This is the written exam. Er, the oral exam, sorry.”
Shawn tends to get on top of the crowd during “Salty Eyes,” and he tried as best he could at the Ivy Room, but there was no barricade (obviously) so he was kinda just like up there ish, until he’s being crowdsurfed back. Then there’s a mic cord just tangling at my feet and Pablo had to rescue Shawn. They had a bit of a moment onstage. Love them.
Jon: “Well we made it this far.”
Shawn: “I just wanna say ‘Salty Eyes’ always felt like a weird, I dunno if I wanna call it a lucky…lucky streak or a turning point, or something, but I think a lot of us in this room transitioned from being teenagers to adults via that song, and I know I did, and that may be a lot to like throw that on your shoulders too. Maybe you’re still working on that shit. I dunno, but uh, it was a weird little moment in our band’s history when we accidentally wrote that song and maybe grasped it out of the ether or something like that. And yeah, not to diminish the power of it… C-c-c-conversations with my bathroom mirror…”
OH HEY I ALMOST FACE PLANTED INTO THE STAGE DURING THIS ONE. THAT’S NEW.
Obviously Pablo to the rescue because duh. This crowd was nuts. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great thing. But MY GOD. And all that sweat.
The crowd singing the “This town gets so boring, na na na na na na na na na na,” repeating part at the end… yes. So good.
Jon: “How you doin’ back there, Matt? Hot.”
Shawn: (singing) “This is a new song… This is a new song… It’s about cool breezes… So cool breezes…”
Jon: “What if we actually played them the song we’ve been working on next, wouldn’t that be funny?”
NEW SONG I BELIEVE IT IT’S TIME
Jon: “I’m kidding. Jokes. Or is it?”
What a tease.
Jon: “We’re gonna take a quick audible, change things up a little bit lest we all get heat stroke.”
So apparently Shawn was like blacking out onstage. No bueno. So they dropped “Got the Time” from the setlist because that’s an insanely fast song, and traded it out for “Clouds Crash” instead, which is much more calm. We were all dying by this point.
However, the band quickly realized they didn’t actually know how to play “Clouds Crash.”
Jon: “Does anyone know how to play ‘Clouds Crash’ on guitar?”
Shawn: “I was like, guys, it’s too hot for the next song we’re gonna play, let’s play ‘Clouds Crash,’ and now I don’t fuckin’ remember it.”
Lauren Wakefield: “I know it!”
Jon: “Lauren knows it!”
Shawn: “Lauren, how do you fuckin’ play this? Come here please.”
Jon: “Will you please teach this man how to play guitar?”
Shawn: “Lauren, do you wanna show me or do you wanna just play it? You’ll play it? Alright, come here. Hey you guys, Lauren from the Solicitors.”
It’s fuckin’ hot in here. Have I mentioned that recently?
Lauren absolutely killed it. Shawn agreed, mid-song, because of course.
Shawn: “You’re killing it, Lauren.”
Shawn stood on a speaker to sing while the rest of the guys kinda just chilled and Lauren played. Jon eventually joined in too. It was so random and unexpected for everyone, including the band.
Shawn: “Lauren Wakefield, everybody. Saving my ass.”
Jon: “Did you guys plan that? Seriously, like if you’ve ever been to a Green Day show, sometimes they bring up people to play guitar for a song, but like you were teaching us how to play the song, that’s different.”
Shawn: “Uh, I got it down, here we go.”
Jon: “Nope, wrong key.”
Lauren had to readjust the guitar strap to account for boobs, so when Shawn put it back on it was hanging a lot lower than he normally wears it.
Shawn: “Finally gonna wear my guitar like a punk.”
Ugh I love “Papercut Skin.” Who doesn’t, let’s be real. It’s a classic.
Somebody’s crowdsurfing. I don’t know how. So much chaos.
I probably noticed Chelsea and Brent behind me around this time. It took me entirely too long honestly. They were right behind me like all night and I was too concerned with not dying on the stage to notice them.
Shawn: “We’ve been playing L3 for an hour and a half.”
Shawn: “Who are we opening for tonight?”
Shawn: “This is our last song until we pretend to go backstage. Shit, did I say that out loud?”
Jon: “Duuuude. We were gonna be rockstars for a second. They were gonna scream our name and everything. Shit. We know your names, too.”
But really, they do.
We start chanting for an encore right then, and Jon goes, “But we didn’t finish yet!”
MEOW MEOW MEOW MEOW
So if you don’t know the story behind this song performed live, the crowd “meows” during the hums. The band used to hate it, but every time we see them play it live, they seem to have embraced it a little more and more.
Shawn put a cat on the back of his vest. He turns around while we’re meowing the first time to show it off. YES.
Shawn: “I’m okay with it, I’m okay it.”
Jon’s meowing in the mic, then so is Shawn.
Shawn: “I even like it.”
Then he takes the vest off toward the end of the song and holds it up while we’re all meowing our little cat hearts out. It was THE BEST. They’ve really embraced the meow. I’m so happy.
Some confetti broke and thus went up a little early. Whoops.
Jon: “We’ll see you guys next tour!”
Shawn put up the L3 fingers and we all followed suit.
There’s no backstage because bar, so they just kinda stood around for a minute.
Jon: “And we’re back! We were talking backstage and we thought we were done, but since you guys are so… We thought we’d come back and do one more.”
They started playing “Dog-Eared Page” and me and Mandy looked at each other like “WTF NO SLS?! But confetti!” We had talked before the show and decided on a perfect time during “Sick Little Suicide” to set the confetti off because that’s almost always their closing song, but they’re saying this is the last song? What do we do? Call their bluff? That’s what we did.
Shawn: “This is a weird thing to say at an L3 show, but everybody tip your bartenders. Thanks to the Ivy Room for having a misfit bunch as us in the house tonight. This is the last we’re gonna talk if you have anything you wanna say.”
Justin: “Thanks for coming out. It was fuckin’ amazing.”
Shawn: (pointing at Justin) “That’s it!”
I love their little banter onstage. They’re so weird.
Shawn: “It’s fun for us to still be able to surprise you guys after all these years. This might’ve been the first time we ever surprised you, this little sound that went…”
They still had so much energy even after we’re all friggin dying in there. Mad respect.
Of course they were bullshitting us. They wouldn’t close a show without “Sick Little Suicide.”
I kinda moved a bit because confetti. Brent’s like right behind me with his own confetti stick in his hand asking when it was time for it to go up. I was confused because I didn’t give him one. Where’d he get it?!
Jon: “Take care of each other.”
There was so much chaos. The pit was nuts as always, but Chelsea was going at it too which made me so happy to see.
The confetti all exploded right as the music did, and it was beautiful. It went really well and I was super happy with it.
Chelsea jumped onstage with her hubby, and Brent and Jon had a cute little hugging moment. So much love in this tiny little room.
When the song ended, we all erupted in an L3 chant.
Then it was family reunion time. I had so many people to catch up with that I wasn’t sure I’d ever leave. That’s a pretty great feeling. That’s why I go to shows, and the Matches have always proven to me that I belong.