People often associate certain music with certain seasons of the year. If a song is drawn out with layers of strings and the lyrics are primarily about loneliness, you’ll probably listen to it more in the winter when the vitamin D deficiency hits. Pop-punk songs on the other hand are like summertime anthems that trigger spur-of-the-moment road trips and relationships you didn’t really think through (hence the winter break-up songs). While I appreciate all of the seasons, autumn has a special place in my heart, and every time it comes around I find myself compelled to listen to Matt Pond PA.
Maybe it’s the gravely texture behind Matt’s voice or the way the band pairs feel-good melodies with underlying hints of pain in the lyrics. It could just be that I drove around the golden mountains of Pennsylvania as an angsty teenager smoking cigarettes with friends and singing along to Several Arrows Later. Either way, something about their music reminds me of the leaves changing color and the air getting colder.
Having Matt Pond PA nostalgically engrained into me, you can imagine my surprise when I walked up the steps at Mercy Lounge on Thursday night to find only sixty or so people sitting (not even standing) during the performance of their touring opener: The Lighthouse & The Whaler (who were doing a phenomenal job, by the way). I instinctively made my way to the empty area up front and others gradually followed suit. By the end, a good little crowd had gathered and all six members of Matt Pond PA walked onstage.
I was worried that Pond would be irritated by the size of the crowd, especially having put out records since 1998. Unfortunately, his stoic stage presence did little to dispel my theories, but the band played a terrific set celebrating the ten-year anniversary of Emblems and continued on to play a handful of favorites from other records. What the room lacked in people was quickly filled up with layers and layers of beautiful sounds (including a cello, which wins me over every time). A backdrop of paper tree cutouts created a simple on-stage landscape beneath red and yellow lights, emulating the very time of year the songs are reminiscent of.
Afterwards, as the room cleared, my friends and I stood around and Matt walked offstage towards the merch table. I looked over and offered a passing “Thanks, that was great”, to which he replied by joining the four of us to linger in the center of Mercy Lounge. We introduced ourselves and I apologized for the lacking turnout, but he responded as if he hadn’t even noticed and said, “It’s my favorite job I’ve ever had.”
It’s remarkable to see someone who has been doing this for well over a decade and a half still loving what they do regardless of how many people show up to watch. Out of curiosity my friend Andrew asked, “Well, what’s the least favorite job you’ve ever had?” Apparently, it was working for a furniture moving company where his co-workers teased him for being too thin. Despite, his argument that he was plenty strong enough to move furniture, we can all be thankful that he didn’t stay in the field too long. Instead, he’s found his place writing songs to grace our ears with year-round, but especially when the summer starts to disappear.