Despite billing former The Get Up Kids frontman Matt Pryor as the headliner, New York City’s Kevin Devine appeared to be the main draw on a warm Thursday night at the Jersey shore. Unlike my trip to the Asbury Park Convention Hall three weeks ago, there were no long lines and no parents accompanying pre-teen girls. Instead, only about two hundred devoted fans came to see three excellent acoustic performers at the eight hundred-person capacity Stone Pony.
With a recent injury to his right pointer figure, thirty-nine year old veteran Jonah Matranga (onelinedrawing, Far, New End Original, Gratitude) was unable to perform his typical set: heavily finger-picked songs, such as my request for “Mother Mary”, were dropped. Instead, he played primarily with a pick and used his other fingers pick out basslines. Despite the injury and the improvised setlist, however, Jonah managed to sound incredible, even covering Sinéad O’Connor in the process. I spoke with him later; upon informing him that I had not seen him since Gratitude; he apologized for the lack of songs from that eponymous album. Pouring the last seven dollars out of my pocket onto the merch table, he even sold me one of his awesome shirts for well below normal price of $15 saying “thanks so much, it’s not about the money”. Jonah is performing September 14 at Maxwell’s in Hoboken; if you’re in the New Jersey area I’d highly recommend checking him out; he even promised to play “Mother Mary”.
Kevin Devine performed next, opening with “Hand of God”. He tossed in the new (and excellent) “Another Bag of Bones” and Sinéad O’Connor’s “Black Boys on Mopeds”. Disappointingly, he skipped out on a few of my favorites, but he did throw in essentials “Yr Damned Ol’ Dad”, “Refugees”, “You’ll Only End Up Joining Them”, and “Brooklyn Boy” (with the “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” intro). Midway through the set he experienced problems with the pickups on his trusty Gibson and had to borrow Matt Pryor’s Takamine. Even with technical difficulties, Kevin played well but unfortunately didn’t play enough songs. Kevin will be returning September 20 to Asbury Park to play at the extremely tiny Wonderbar.
Kansas native Matt Pryor played for about an hour, throwing in a chunk of The Get Up Kids songs despite being on tour to promote his newest solo record, Confidence Man. Songs like “Never Treat Others” and “Michelle With One ‘L’” received solid solo treatment, while songs like “Campfire Kansas” were omitted as Pryor repeatedly explain to the crowd that other Get Up Kids vocalist Jim Suptic sang those songs. Pryor jokingly told the crowd to “request Matt Pryor songs” at Black Pool Lights (Suptic’s new band) shows. The talk of covers did spark a Reggie and the Full Effect cover before Pryor jumped into “When I Get To Eleven” from If You Ever See An Owl, the debut album by The Terrible Twos. A few more solo songs and some Get Up Kids cuts rounded out a great setlist that I only wish had featured the notably absent “Out of Reach” from Something to Write Home About.
Despite the near-empty Stone Pony, each of the three performers played well and put on a great show; the Sinéad O’Connor cover battle hopefully introduced a new generation to the Irish singer-songwriter’s works. Amidst rumors of The Get Up Kids reuniting for a spring tour, it was great to see Matt Pryor still in great form. Even material from Confidence Man was warmly received, despite the crowd knowing few of the songs. It would be hard to find three better solo artists on one bill in 2008.