Matthew Sweet, Belly Up Tavern: 8/25/2008

“You still can’t hide from the ugly truth…” – Matthew Sweet

The truth behind Matthew Sweet’s popularity is still a mystery to me. Last night’s show at the Belly Up, I was mesmerized by the crowd that turned up. I consider myself a fan of Matthew Sweet after Roger introduced his music to me when we first started dating. But I am still trying to figure out if there is a deeper meaning to being a Matthew Sweet fan. Last night’s crowd was filled with characters that I really could only link together one commonality: a connection to nostalgic memories of being a loser (or actually still a loser).

For those who were there, I hate to offend. But watching the single guy bopping his head to the music clutching his vinyl record to be signed after the show and the older couple that sat the entire show except for the five songs that they knew, where they got up excitedly and sang along… I had to wonder.

If you were there, think about it. Look deep inside and ask yourself, “why do I like Matthew Sweet?” His music is actually quite average. He has one hit per album (as Chuck Klosterman so nicely put it). They are not complex songs. And certainly not hard rocking dance songs (as some did not seem to realize last night). So why? I can only attribute it to the same feeling as when watching a John Cusack movie. Their is a connection to the persona… a feeling of love and loss, a feeling of longing for someone else or to be someone else. I guess I sometimes connect this feeling to a sad state of disillusionment that so many “losers” are associated with. Perhaps I am attaching much more profound reasoning than the reality that some people just like Matthew Sweet just because…

Last night’s show was the first show of a mini tour (4 dates) in Southern California, in preparation for his larger tour in October. It was obvious that this was the case within the first song of the set where none of their three guitarists could remember the chords to the song. They crashed right through it… The rest of the show was not as bad but you could see the concentration on their faces as they peered at one another, trying to remember how to play each song.

Today is the official date that his album, Sunshine Lies is released, but the CD was available for purchase at last night’s show. He actually was offering to the first 50 people who bought the album a chance to meet him after the show. There was roughly 250 people at the show, maybe 25 people bought CDs. I am sorry to say, Matthew Sweet, you are not the big shot you think you are… well at least not here in San Diego.

As we drove home, Roger and I discussed whether the Belly Up was the appropriate venue for Matthew Sweet to play in San Diego. He did not sell out the show, not even close. His crowd would not dare step into the Casbah and Anthology is too upscale. The only place we could think of is a smaller showroom at one of the casinos. What does that say about his draw to loserdom?

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