The Matches at Gramercy Theatre: Event Review

After over five years of going on an indefinite hiatus, The Matches recently returned to the stage to perform a ten-year reunion of their début album, E. Von Dahl Killed the Locals. Not only did the band reunite, but they did so with the full founding band, including bassist Justin San Souci who left the band back in 2008. What was meant to be a one night only event in San Francisco has surmounted into three Bay-area dates, two Los Angeles shows, one night in Chicago, and two nights in New York. On Saturday, November 15th, The Matches took over the Gramercy Theatre in New York and played to a raucous sold-out crowd.

Opening acts Happy Body, Slow Brain and Mainland both played short, high-energy, and fun-fueled sets that amped everyone up for the return of The Matches. With The Postal Service, Taking Back Sunday, and Say Anything all having ten-year reunion tours recently, this one felt extra special. It’s particularly great for fans who never thought they would ever play a show together again, let alone a show dedicated to E. Von Dahl Killed the Locals. Also, it’s for a band that never seemed to win over the masses during their time. They were always a quaint band that was overshadowed by similar pop-rock groups; thus, them returning was completely unexpected and equally wonderful.

Running out on stage, Shawn Harris, Matt Whalen, Justin San Souci, and Jonathan Devoto (who was supporting a white, 70s disco wig) seemed well rested, exuberant, and as charming as ever. The setlist was as follows: “Dog-Eared Page,” “Audio Blood,” “Chain Me Free,” “Borderline Creep,” “The Restless,” “More than Local Boys,” “Eryn Smith,” “Say 18,” “The Jack Slap Cheer,” “Destination: Nowhere Near,” “Sick Little Suicide,” “Scratched Out [Track 11].” After playing the entirety of the 2004 Epitaph release of E. Von Dahl Killed the Locals, they returned to play “Salty Eyes,” “Wake the Sun,” “Didi (My Doe, Part 2),” “What Katie Said,” “Little Maggots,” and “Papercut Skin.” After leaving the stage for the second time, the audience erupted into a chant for “Superman,” which The Matches gleefully ran back to finalize the night with.

Before the closing song, lead singer Shawn Harris remarked how fitting it was for them to end their set with the first song they ever wrote as a band. Throughout the night, Harris discussed certain songs they wrote a decade ago, how they originated, and how they’ve aged. In fact, he talked about how uncomfortable it was for him, now in his mid thirties, to sing a song such as “Say 18.” The whole night was a time of reflection for The Matches. They joked about “Destination: Nowhere Near,” and how the chorus is “I wanna be on the road again,” when they hadn’t even toured before writing that song. It was a sincere, sentimental, and festive evening, where you could see how happy they were to be playing those songs again at a new point in their lives. In fact, Harris kept smiling and seemed oddly off-put by the amount of love shown for them and their songs that they wrote in their parents’ basements. At the end of the show, the entire band hugged out on stage before turning, bowing, and waving whole-heartedly at the audience.

The evening was about The Matches and their ten-year reunion, but it was also about the connection between The Matches and their fans over the past decade. During the encore, a small group started to chant, “What Katie Said,” to which Harris immediately turned around and said, “Okay!” The crowd was giddy, over-adrenalized, and thrilled to finally see The Matches play again. Towards the end of the night, Harris asked the audience how many people drove over an hour to see them play, to which more than half of the audience cheered and raised their hands. The E. Von Dahl Killed the Locals ten-year reunion show was as familiar and whimsical as the album itself, and hopefully it inspires The Matches to record or re-reunite in the soon future.