Artists: Rhett Miller, Matthew Ryan
Venue: Saint Rocke, Hermosa Beach
Date: March 24th, 2018
The pairing of Rhett Miller and Matthew Ryan for a tour is an interesting one. Both are extremely talented songwriters and strong performers, but both carry a very different energy and tone to their writing. In a more agnostic setting, both acts would be able to shine in their own unique way, but unfortunately for Ryan, the vibe and audience at Saint Rocke was simply the wrong fit for his collection of beautifully somber songs.
As Ryan came on the stage, their was a strong crowd of both devoted fans and interested music fans waiting to hear him play, and as he belted out his first tunes (including our #8 song of 2017 “(I Just Died) Like an Aviator”), it became clear that he had the crowd’s attention as his smokey vocals filled the room. But despite maintaining a strong stage presence, the heavily-inebriated (and at times blatantly obnoxious) crowd filling the back of the room maintained a noisy chatter that was disheartening and disrespectful. Kudos for Ryan who kept things classy, though only showed some signs of being irked when he went into a lovely cover of Tom Petty‘s “Walls” (“you can talk over my songs, but not Petty,” he half-jokingly chastised the room). Though all his songs sounded excellent (even with the occasional lyric flub), most are contemplative meditations and acoustic ballads, and were simply the wrong energy for the very specific Hermosa Beach crowd.
This was a Miller crowd. Rhett Miller to be more precise. The more high octane songs The Old 97’s frontman brought with him were the type of singalongs this rowdy crowd could all get behind. Miller brought a great heap of “aww shucks” type charisma, and there was one VERY excited woman behind me making no effort to hide her desire to “mess around” with the singer. Miller’s set ventured from singles from his first solo album (“Come Around”, “Our Love”) to more recent 97’s songs (“Good with God”, “Longer Than You’ve Been Alive”). The humor imbued in his songwriting shows through even stronger in his live performance, such as in “Champagne, Illinois”. Miller admitted to it being a specifically curated set-list of rockers in honor of his friend’s birthday, and he managed to maintain his exhaustive energy the entire evening.
In a venue like The Troubadour or Largo, both artists could have truly been given a chance to shine with their own unique styles. But, both artists are professional and know that sometimes you have to deal with some noisy drunks, and you just have to play on.