Jonah Matranga, Darwin And The Dinosaurs // Hare and Hounds, Birmingham // 29.07.2012
Having bought and fallen in love with Jonah Matranga's album "And" a couple of years ago after an Amazon recommendation I was really happy to see he was playing at Hare And Hounds, a local pub in Birmingham. The singer/songwriter from Massachusetts hasn't quite hit the big time, but judging by last night's performance, he really, really doesn't care about the number of fans or size of the venue.
The Hare And Hounds is a pretty small venue, just a function room above a popular pub in a Birmingham suburb, but it has a brilliant reputation for music and gets some pretty big names, meaning Jonah's 'well-known within the right circle' style of music fitted right in there. Sure, there weren't many people, but those who were there either loved Jonah, his support, or just music in general, so it was destined to be a good night.
Support was from Norwich-based Darwin And The Dinosaurs, who were definitely good musicians (an absolutely brilliant cover of Billy Bragg's 'A New England' sold them for me), but they didn't quite fit together as one band. The lead singer seemed to think he was in a pop-punk band, whereas the others were convinced it was some-degree of rock. The reason for this became a little more clear later when half of the band joined Jonah on stage to form backing band "The Three A's (Adam, Alan, and Alan for those who're interested).
They then proceeded to completely change the sound of the night. Jonah is the classic Man And His Guitar; he has one of the sweetest, most gentle voices you'll ever hear, and focuses largely on love songs, to current, ex and future loves, as well as his daughter (who I mistakenly assumed was around 5, as Jonah had been referring to her as his "kid" and he doesn't really look that old himself, but she's actually 18, and his gigs are putting her through college, so that's a good deed done by having a great night out).
When backed by a full band Jonah was just as comfortable as any other front man in a rock band. He had the stage presence and charisma you would expect of a friend of Frank Turner, and the crowd were all too eager to keep him happy. Starting the set with some acoustic songs he informed the audience "there was no set list" so anything we wanted to hear, just yell it out, so people did. A wonderful Deftones cover, and "Every Mistake" in honour of his daughter were two of the songs he could remember.
Mid-set he demanded the tables and chairs be moved from the middle of the room so people could stand, much to everyone's relief. Everybody had wanted to stand, but nobody wanted to be the first, Jonah certainly read the audience's foot tapping well. And the gig carried on up from there, it was so much more than the quiet acoustic night I had been expecting, and it was brilliant for that very reason.