Outside the Pit is a recurring installment for Mosh Pit Report that focuses on the music we at Mosh Pit Report listen to when we're not moshing. We encourage our readers to check out all the artists we cover and expand outside some of their typical musical comfort zones.
Towards the end of his show in Boston on Thursday night, singer-songwriter Matt Wertz told the story of how during the early stages in his career, he would attempt to calculate how many CD’s he would need to sell to able to put off getting a “real job” for a few more months. In those days his usual venues were coffee houses and dive bars in Nashville, TN. Now, 15 years and 7 studio albums later, Wertz has done a pretty good job of escaping that dreaded 9 to 5 life.
Wertz’s latest album, “Gun Shy” is a drastic change in style from most of the music he’s made throughout his career. It’s a more pop and electronic based record with a clear 80’s synthpop influence. The 80’s influence isn’t new, as on his previous album “Heatwave” Wertz opted for a more guitar based, Bryan Adams-esque rock. At another point in Thursday’s show – Wertz likes to talk to his audience a lot between songs – he spoke about how before making “Gun Shy” he decided he wanted to take a risk with his music and get out of his comfort zone – which he has.
His new sound is comparable to that of modern-era bands like The 1975 or The XX with dream pop style instrumentals and the use of effects like auto-tune and looping. Wertz even tries his hand at rapping, during the song “Unexpected Love”, which he performed on Thursday before playfully bantering with his fans about the unusual sight of witnessing him rap during one of his shows.
For fans who have been coming to Wertz’s shows for years, a lot of the early portion of his latest show was probably unusual. 7 of the first 10 songs he played were songs from "Gun Shy" including the titular track and the song 'You Know When You Know' (which is shortened to the acronym “YKWYK” for dream pop aesthetic purposes on the album track listing.) After playing through the new material with his electric guitar and backing band Wertz was ready to step back into his familiar role, alone with his acoustic guitar.
But first Wertz took some time to speak about a cause near and dear to his heart, Mocha Club,a nonprofit
organization dedicated to fighting extreme poverty in Africa. The organization named for the fact that a donation equivalent to the price of a daily mocha latte is enough to help the cause. There were representatives from the organization at Wertz’s merch table, currently on tour with him, spreading awareness about the organization.
Wertz went back into his set with the soft acoustic ballad “I Will Not Take My Love Away” and followed that with a plethora of songs from earlier in his career including the fan favorite “5:19.” The second half of the show consisted almost entirely of Wertz serenading the crowd with just his voice and acoustic guitar, the same way he built up his fan base in the 2000’s.
Staying true to his roots Wertz began his encore by taking a request from the audience and going off setlist, playing “Sweetness in Starlight” a deeper cut from his “Twenty Three Places” album. He would play two more songs before calling it a night on his 19 song, 90+ minute set.
While his latest album deviates from his traditional genre, Matt Wertz is still continuing with much of the same in his live performances - intimate venues, story-telling, and accommodating requests the same things that have kept his fans coming back for years. Wertz said he recognized a lot of faces in the crowd during his show, and it was entirely believable as he shares that kind of closeness with his fan base.
Wertz’s independence and shared devotion with his fan base are what’s made his career consistent and sustainable for the last 15 years, and while he’s begun stepping outside his musical comfort zone, don’t expect him to be aiming for arenas or festival headline slots. Watch him on stage and you’ll quickly learn he’s entirely happy with the impressive independent career he’s built, and best of all for him, he’s still managed to evade that 9 to 5 job while sharing his music with fans across the country.
Opening up for Wertz on the night was rising pop star CAPPA who showed enormous potential during her set. Her ultra catchy song "Next Ex" is a delicious pop track destined for radio. CAPPA's stage presence is already strong, as she comes into her own and finds her comfort zone onstage. After watching her set I was immediately hooked and I can see big things in her future.
Prior to CAPPA's set, Matt Wertz's backing guitarist Aaron Krause took his turn at the front of the stage with a short set of funky electronic dance rock.