Review: Matt Maeson goes against the grain at Popscene

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Matt Maeson

Matt Maeson performs at Popscene at the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco on May 13, 2019.. Photos: Gary Chancer.

SAN FRANCISCO — Popscene had hosted plenty of Neon Gold Records artists over the years. From the likes of Wet to Passion Pit, Icona Pop and more recently Flint Eastwood, Your Smith and LPX (artist Lizzy Plapinger is a cofounder of the label), the thing those artists have in common is that they’re all pop. Compared to them, Matt Maeson essentially plays folk music. Yet there he was Monday night, selling out the Rickshaw Stop.

The singer-songwriter, backed by a guitarist-keyboardist and a drummer, performed an hourlong set of heart-on-your-sleeve testimonials, much to the delight of fans. Even more impressive was that this came on his first headlining tour and just his third show in the Bay Area playing some of these songs.

He opened the performance on an acoustic guitar with his bandmates joining in at the second verse of “Hallucinogenics.” This wasn’t coffeehouse material because whenever the full band kicked into full gear, the songs, like the opener, turned raucous. Maeson actually lost his place on the first song, and unsure of what to do, performed another few bars alone. This created the opportunity for the band to create another explosive build-up.

Matt Maeson

Matt Maeson performs at Popscene at the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco on May 13, 2019.

Other songs like new single “I Just Don’t Care That Much” also hewed to the quiet-loud-quiet dynamic. This song, as well as Maeson’s first hit, “Cringe,” included some well-placed and poignant spoken-word lines about the artist’s faith.

Stomper “Grave Digger” and “Tribulation,” a sort of biting anthemic ballad, highlighted Maeson’s self-deprecating songwriting. The latter laid out his warts as he debated whether to pursue a relationship: “I don’t think I ever can love you right.” Tender weeper “Feel Good” and “Beggar’s Song,” a faith-inspired tune about finding something to hold onto, provided just enough deviation to keep things interesting.

Maeson also played “Tread on Me” and “Go Easy,” sharing some of the stories behind the songs, and closed out with slow-burner “Mr. Rattlebone.”

Betcha

Betcha performs at Popscene at the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco on May 13, 2019.

Nashville rock band Betcha opened the concert, hopping between its different influences.

Opener “Coincidental” made it seem like the band would go in the direction of Mumford and Sons, with growled vocals paired with atmospheric synths. But the song made a left turn into a psychedelic dirge. The next tune had more of a dance-pop rhythm, while the third track, “Swim Naked,” was influenced by early aughts post-punk. Growled vocals had suddenly turned into a high-pitched falsetto.

Betcha also covered Kacey Musgraves’ “High Horse,” making the dance track its own, and then performed the swooning “Losing My Mind” and new single “Lucy Lucy.”

Follow editor Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter.

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