Tallest Man On Earth @ The Glass House
with Strand of Oaks
Old town Pomona on a balmy 83 degree evening, twinkly lights wrap the trees that line the narrow stone streets. This is also the artists' district of Pomona, sporadic street art reaffirming such. The now-LA native in me is thrilled with the amount of parking - excuse me, free parking, there is around the literally glass venue. I join the dozens in line, waiting to pickup their will-call tickets, or hoping that there are more available for purchase.
The Glass House seems more of a pop/punk venue to me than an indie-folk type place - but that probably speaks more to my poor taste in music as a youth than anything else. Mostly, except for a fun Presets show in 2009, I've really only seen forgettable bands here. But not tonight.
Tonight I see, for the third time, one of the best singer/songwriters out there, whom critics have dubbed the Dylan of our generation. Tallest Man on Earth is Swedish native Kristian Matsson. Physically a tiny waif of a man, but possessing a magically powerful voice that boasts a height and depth not of this world.
The two-piece band Strand of Oaks is the opener - same as when I saw Tallest Man in June at The Wiltern. But here in the Glass House I am a mere 15 feet from the stage, squished in with fellow music-lovers, easy new friends of the same serene goal. Tim is vocals and electric guitar and Chris is drums - together they create an unexpectedly rich, raw, almost wild sound. Before they take the stage, one of my new chummy neighbors asks if I know their music, and I take no pause at describing Strand of Oaks as sounding "like wilderness." As soon as this escapes my mouth, I giggle out loud at it, telling him that I don't really even know what that means. That it is more of the feeling their music gives me, specific to my experience with them in their live format. He either understands or he pretends to.
With three LPs of options, Strand of Oaks songs seem to start soft, slow, and then generally gain speed and momentum, building into a heartfelt experience, always an interesting story told. The down-to-earth qualities of these guys come out in some of their humorous and humble quips both during and in between songs; Tim speaks of his most likely currently sleeping wife back in Philadelphia, and how their song Maureen is about them meeting at an ice cream shop. Other songs boast playing out the murder of John Belushi's drug dealer (Daniel's Blues) or hanging out with the Kennedys (Sterling). Tim also amusingly admits he looks like someone who has been in the desert for too long; I just think he looks like the kind of person I generally make friends with.
These two gentlemen blow through their 45 minute set, the crowd showing them lots of love as they jam out hard on their very last song, Tim waving his long hippy hair around and Chris building up so much percussive energy. Their music and presentation feel real, raw, untouched. Refreshing in a world of produced and over-produced entertainment.
House lights off, much mumbling and squirming about as no one wants to leave their spot, knowing full-well the crowd will just move in, swallowing up any emptiness. Minutes later what sounds like the Swedish version of one of Kristian's songs begins to play, a recording, but it still gets the audience whooping and whistling, full of excitement. And then he walks out, black jeans, black tank. Simple, no bells nor whistles. And he launches right into a tune from his newest LP, There's No Leaving Now.
I don't recall everything he played, but I know he ran through many of my favorites including Love is All, The Gardener, King of Spain, Like the Wheel, and he encored with The Dreamer.
Kristian plays mostly on his many guitars, but did involve the piano for a couple numbers including The Dreamer. He ended up throwing a couple guitar pics to the crowd, and upon using a towel to wipe sweat from his brow, a silly male voice amongst the crowd asked "Can I have that?" The intimate room erupted in giggles, and Kristian flashed a smile and promised to pass it along once he was done with it.
His lyrics are true to folk style and wrought with whimsy, nature and wilderness metaphors, twisting together stories of self-discovery, love, and life.
I could write about his emotive power over me and my music-loving heart til the cows come home, but just go take a listen for yourself. And see him live if you can, always a wonderful experience!
until next time! xx