Photos + Review | Matt Vasquez @ Cafe 939

Photos + Review | Matt Vasquez @ Cafe 939

Matthew Logan Vasquez opened his show at the Red Room seated on a stool, wearing a black Stetson, the very picture of a tasteful singer-songwriter. He ended the set ninety minutes later in a shirtless raveup, moshing in a circle of sweaty men in a similar state of undress.

In between, Vasquez took us on a comprehensive tour of his career so far, from his recent solo work, through Delta Spirit and a gleeful trio of Middle Brother songs, teasing the reunion show scheduled for Newport Folk this summer. (“I’m as surprised about that as you!”)

Vasquez opened with the beautiful, sixteen-minute-plus song “Austin,” the title track from his solo EP. The song has a meditative, circular chord progression reminiscent of “Knocking On Heaven’s Door” as played by Neil Young. Vasquez elaborates the simple melody continuously, as if struggling to put off the return towards which the song arcs as if inevitably. It’s a lovely, ballsy song, particularly in performance, where the emotional vulnerability of the lyrics (“I crawled so far inside / That we were eye to eye / The demons and me / We were thinking the same thing.”) is unavoidable.

Having started on such a contemplative note, Vasquez seemed a little frustrated in the early going by the attentive but less than rowdy crowd, demanding people come closer to the stage, insisting everyone slowdance to “Maria,” shouting “Fuck the Yankees,” and, at one point, leaving the stage to stand in the audience and peer up at the stage, as if trying to figure out where the problem was. He hit his stride with a sudden left turn from “Black East River” to the Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down,” the audience hollering along. He later veered from a beguiling new song into Harry Nilsson’s “Coconut,” grinning from ear to ear.

Vasquez rewarded the rapt attention with a five song solo set, highlighted by “Push It,” during which he often stood and sang off mic, his unvarnished voice carrying effortlessly through the small room, the audience in the palm of his hand. After the band rejoined him for “Bushwick Blues,” he called for all thirty something men in the room to come to the front and take off their shirts. Leading by example, he said, “Look at my body. It’s not awesome. I’m a dad now. I don’t know what the rest of you are going to do, but we’re about to have some man therapy.” Vasquez then launched into a riproaring “Everything I Do Is Out,” plunging into the audience to rub shoulders with his delirious brethren, singing “I sink like a stone in your red room / No longer will we cry / Rock ‘n roll will never die.”