Archive for the ‘The Tallest Man on Earth’ Category

[ATTENDED: March 12, 2022] Daughter of Swords

I first heard The Tallest Man on Earth back in 2014.  I had a ticket to see him play Union Transfer in November 2018.  But I had to skip that show because of a Scout hike that I was asked to go on.

I promised myself I’d see him the next time he came to town.  That was October 2019.  But at the least minute he had to cancel the tour because of personal problems back home in Sweden.

He rescheduled the show for 2020.  The show was on my birthday, and I like to spend the day with my family.  I bought at ticket anyway, just to see how the day went.  And then Covid struck.

He rescheduled the show for March of 2021, but that had to get pushed back as well.

And here it is, March of 2022, four and a half years after the initial date, and I finally got to see him.  Interestingly, four and a half years isn’t really that long given who infrequently some other bands tour.  But for him, that’s a lifetime and a half.

The Tallest Man on Earth is Kristian Matsson, a Swedish folksinger with a great guitar picking style and a deep powerful gritty voice.   The lights went down and the stage was full of pointy shards of plastic (?) standing upright as a backdrop.  They were primarily white, but I loved the way the lights played off of them changing the colors of the stage.

After a recording of a Swedish song, Matsson came out on stage.  I don’t know if he is usually solo (I assume so).  He was dressed in a white T shirt with light pants that were rolled up.  And he scampered and leapt around the stage with lightness (if not always grace).  He capered.  From one side of the stage to the other, he checked in with the audience while he was singing.

He played two songs on electric guitar (“The Foothills” which I think is new and “The Gardener,” which is very much not new).  His voice is deep and gruff and incredibly powerful.

After two songs he switched guitars.  This time to an acoustic 12 string.

There’s something really fantastic about his guitar playing that just fills a room.  With just the one guitar (okay, like a dozen guitars, but one at a time) his songs never sound like a guy with a guitar.  He has a very percussive style of play and he uses a lot of opening tunings so his notes ring out and fill the room.  It’s pretty wonderful.

He also let us in on a secret.  After the third song, he stopped to tell us that his nail had come off. He told a lengthy story about himself and Jose Gonzales and how they both glue extra fingernails on the tips of their fingers to help the with their playing style.  And one of them had just popped off so he needed some glue.  He told us that he took off the nails at the end of the show so he could look normal, but that he couldn’t play without them.  So we waited while he talked and fixed his nail(s).

Then he switched over to an acoustic six string for the next couple of songs.

Joking that SHE doesn’t need fake nails, he called Daughter of Swords to perform a lovely duet of The Velvet Underground’s “I Found a Reason.”

When Alexandra left the stage, he went over to the piano that was at the side of the stage for There’s No Leaving Now.”

With a new six string acoustic, he played a few more songs like the fantastic “1904” and “King of Spain.”  Then he brought out his banjo for “Somewhere in the Mountains, Somewhere in New York.”  And he ended the set with an electric and electrifying version of “The Stranger.”

When he came back out for the encore, he sneaked around through the sculptures, hiding behind them and peeking out above them.

He started the encore with “The Wild Hunt,” and we all sang along.  Then he ended the show with piano version of “Like The Wheel.”

At the end of the song he stood on the piano and waved to everyone in turn, rotating to make sure he got everyone.  And then he leapt off the piano and scampered off stage.

What a fun show!  (I didn’t even need to mention the group of ten drunks behind me who were talking really loudly about New York and their drinks and who knows what else.  They sucked).

  1. The Foothills
  2. The Gardener
  3. Wind and Walls
  4. Dark Bird Is Home ♠
  5. Rivers
  6. A Lion’s Heart
  7. I Found a Reason (The Velvet Underground cover) (with Daughter of Swords)
  8. There’s No Leaving Now (piano)
  9. The Running Styles of New York ♥
  10. I’ll Be a Sky ♥
  11. 1904
  12. Love Is All
  13. King of Spain
  14. Revelation Blues
  15. Somewhere in the Mountains, Somewhere in New York ‰
  16. I’m a Stranger Now ♥
  17. The Dreamer §
  18. The Wild Hunt
  19. Like the Wheel (piano) §

♥ I Love You, It’s a Fever Dream (2019)
‰ When the Bird Sees the Solid Ground EP (2018)

♠ Dark Bird is Home (2015)
⊗ There’s No Leaving Now (2012)
€ The Wild Hunt (2010)

§ Sometimes the Blues is Just a Passing Bird EP (2010)
⊄ Shallow Grave (2008)


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[ATTENDED: March 12, 2022] Daughter of Swords

In my head, I thought that a show that started at 6:30 would be over in plenty of time for me to make a show that started at 8 a few blocks away.

I guess I hadn’t counted on Wet Leg having an opening band (of course, they couldn’t really charge a full price ticket for 45 minutes of music, right?).  So Wet Leg ended at roughly 8:15.  It took me about 10 minutes to walk to Union Transfer and get situated.  I saw the end of one Daughter of Swords song and by the time I found the much closer spot where I wanted to stand, she announced that she had one song left.

So I saw the final Daughter of Swords song. (more…)

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[POSTPONED: March 6, 2021] The Tallest Man on Earth / Courtney Marie Andrews [rescheduled from May 8, 2020; moved to March 12, 2022]

indexOn February 2, Union Transfer posted this update:

The Tallest Man On Earth show has been officially moved to March 12 2022. With a date this far out, it ensures there will be no issues with TMOE entering the country and most important – we are near guaranteed to have a safe and normal show (finally!).

My first show for 2022!

I wonder if Courtney Marie Andrews will still open?

I have wanted to see The Tallest Man on Earth for a few years and things always seem to come up to cancel my opportunity.

In 2018 I had a ticket to see him, but then a camping trip came up.

In 2019, he had to cancel his tour for the first time because of a personal crisis.

And now this.  [And now this again].

This show was awkwardly timed to be on a very important person’s birthday, but I was hoping that the family would forgive me if I ducked out to see Kristian Matsson finally.

Courtney Marie Andrews was on my bad list because she put out her last album right around the time that Courtney Barnett put out her last album, so whenever the DJ would say Courtney I was excited until they followed it with Marie.

Courtney Marie is a folk singer who veers too far into the country lanes for my liking.  Although I did find that she had a powerful voice, which goes a long way.

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[POSTPONED: May 8, 2020] The Tallest Man on Earth / Courtney Marie Andrews [moved to March 6, 2021]

indexI have wanted to see The Tallest Man on Earth for a few years and things always seem to come up to cancel my opportunity.

In 2018 I had a ticket to see him, but then a camping trip came up.

In 2019, he had to cancel his tour for the first time because of a personal crisis.

And now this.

This show was awkwardly timed to be on a very important person’s birthday, but I was hoping that the family would forgive me if I ducked out to see Kristian Matsson finally.

Courtney Marie Andrews was on my bad list because she put out her last album right around the time that Courtney Barnett put out her last album, so whenever the DJ would say Courtney I was excited until they followed it with Marie.

Courtney Marie is a folk singer who veers too far into the country lanes for my liking.  Although I did find that she had a powerful voice, which goes a long way.

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SOUNDTRACK: THE TALLEST MAN ON EARTH-Tiny Desk Concert #888 (September 6, 2019).

I watched the first Tiny Desk Concert from The Tallest Man on Earth about five years ago and I’ve been a fan ever since.  He looks pretty different than he did back then.  But that’s because even though I watched it five years ago,

It’s 10 years almost to the day since we published The Tallest Man On Earth’s Tiny Desk in 2009. What I remember most about that performance was the intensity of Kristian Matsson and how astonished our audience was to discover him. I think of it as one of our very first viral videos.

It wasn’t viral for me in 2009, but I did really enjoy it.

Since then I have planned to see him on two occasions.  Back in 2018 I had a ticket for him at Union Transfer, but I wound up going on a Boy Scout hike that weekend.  This year, on October 2, he was supposed to play the Met Philly, but he cancelled the entire American tour.

So, maybe in 2020, it will finally happen, especially since he doesn’t live in Sweden exclusively.

The Swedish singer now splits his time between Djurås, Sweden and Brooklyn, N.Y., and has just put out his fifth studio album titled, I Love You. It’s a Fever Dream. 

I don’t honestly recall what first attracted me to his music (his voice and guitar playing, i suspect) although this observation is fascinating:

I think Kristian Matsson’s words are more focused, more observational and more appreciative of life than in the past.

I suppose it would have been interesting if he played one song that he played ten years ago to see if he did it any differently.  But it’s probably better that he plays three new songs with C.J. Camerieri on French horn and muted trumpet.

“What I’ve Been Kicking Around” opens with his fast finger-picking–there’s really quite a lot going on in this song.  He plays this one on electric guitar  and C.J is on French horn.  His voice is gruff but inviting with a vaguely Bob Dylanesque delivery.  There’s something about the way that minimal French horn accompaniment fills in the spaces between the songs that allows him to play his complex fingering and the song still feels full.

For “I’ll Be A Sky,” he switches to acoustic guitar and C.J. plays muted trumpet.  His fingerpicking style doesn’t change, but the song is a lot warmer.  I love the way he delivers these lines almost conversationally

I feel that I’m a little lost most of the time
But I don’t really mind, oh, when my heart feels young
I travel through the storms but then I hang to dry
And I don’t really mind, oh, when my arm is in the rain and the sun

For the the final song “”The Running Styles of New York,” he switches back to the electric guitar.  He has to tune it and jokes that he was trying to dumb it down by bringing fewer guitars.  The song

begins with, “I hear beauty in things / Like the neighbors return / To their love and pride / Their day like a wicked ride / But then to belong.”

Continuing with the muted trumpet, C.J. plays some solo melodies while Kristian plays his complicated fingerpicking.  There’s some really lovely harmonics on this song, too.

I hope all is well and he’s able to tour again soon.

[READ: August 14, 2019] Gone with the Mind

I’ve enjoyed most of what Mark Leyner has written to varying degrees.  He tends to be an over-the-top satirist of himself, of pop culture and of concepts like the novel.

He wrote two novels and three collections of short stories in the 1990s, was celebrated and vilified and then kind of disappeared.

He was primarily writing for magazines and TV and stuff behind the scenes.  Then he came back in 2012 with The Sugar Frosted Nutsack which I have yet to read.   Then he wrote this one.  I grabbed it from work a couple years back and finally got around to it and it was much like what I was expecting and miles away from what I imagined.

The book beings with an introduction from Mark’s mother Muriel.  She is reading aloud and explains that she is coordinating director of the Nonfiction and the Food Court Reading Series at the Woodcreek Plaza Mall.  She thanks various people for giving them such a nice location at the mall as well as the sponsors Panda Express, Master Wok, Au Bon Pain, Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, etc. (more…)

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[CANCELLED: October 7, 2019] The Tallest Man on Earth

I was pretty excited to see The Tallest Man on Earth since last year I had to skip the show for my own personal reasons.  So I was bummed that on June 20, I was refunded my money because this tour was going to be cancelled.

Kristian himself sent out this apology:

Hello Sweet People,

The universe has gotten in the way of my plans and I have to cancel 8 shows on my fall tour: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Boston and New York.

I’ve never done this before and it was an incredibly hard decision, but ultimately it is less of a choice than a necessity. I’m very sorry and I will find a time to make up these shows as soon as I can. Tickets will be refunded in full. If you have already purchased tickets you will be receiving information on getting a complete refund. You can also go here [thetallestmanonearth.com/refunds] for all the information you need.

Also, to avoid raising any concern, please know that I’m fine. I’m healthy and I feel good. No other shows will be affected this year. I hope I haven’t ruined your plans too much and I can’t wait to make this up to you. I am going to think of a really fun way to do that.

Ok, be well, talk soon.


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[ATTENDED: October 2, 2019] Tiny Ruins

I had originally planned to see The Tallest Man on Earth at the Met Philly on this night.  But some time ago he cancelled the entire North American tour.  Which is a bummer, since I’d really like to see him.

However, that allowed me to go to that night’s other wonderful offering–Aldous Harding.

Tiny Ruins opened for Aldous.  Tiny ruins is a band from New Zealand led by songwriter Hollie Fullbrook.  In fact, for this tour, Tiny Ruins was only Fullbrook and her guitar.

She came out front and sang about a half dozen songs in her beautiful voice accompanied by her exquisite guitar playing.

She opened with “Tread Softly” and she admitted the words were written by W.B. Yeats.  But she promised that the words for all of the other songs were her own.

I enjoyed listening to Hollie speak, although her accent wasn’t as strong as I imagined it would be. (more…)

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I’ve enjoyed The Tallest Man on Earth and I’ve been looking forward to seeing him live for a while.  I’ve actually had really back luck with his tours.  One time something came up on the night I was supposed to see him.  Another time he had to cancel his tour.  But, with luck, I will get to see Kristian Matsson live.

The Tallest Man on Earth sings simple folk songs.  The greatness of his songs comes from his voice and delivery.  There’s something about his voice and his style that is steeped in American folk, but the fact that he’s from Sweden changes his outlook and his accent.

This song from his album I Love You, It’s a Fever Dream follows in the style he is known for–spare, simple melodies and his often wordy lyrics.

Starting with fast acoustic chords (played high on the neck), Kristian begins singing in his familiar but unique style.  The bridge ends with a fast vocal melody that is a pure hook that leads to the singalong titular chorus.

After three minutes, the song slows down to a quiet guitar melody and near-whispered vocals.

[READ: May 1, 2019] The Man on Platform 5

I know Robert Llewellyn from the show Red Dwarf, of which I am a huge fan.

In fact, I didn’t know anything about this story, but I figured if Kryten wrote it, it must be good.  I had read his memoir, the wonderfully titled Thin He Was and Filthy Haired, and I was sure I had read this at the time as well.  But evidently not, because when I started flipping through it I realized I didn’t know a thing about this story.  I also see that he has written quite a lot more in the last two decades.

It seems fairly obvious from the get go that this story is a gender reversing story of Pygmalion or My Fair Lady.  Instead of a man trying to improve a woman, in this story, a woman is trying to “improve” a man.  In some ways it’s very modern and progressive and in other ways it’s pretty stuck in gender stereotypes.  But hey it was the 90’s, before writers were enlightened.

The man who needs bettering is Ian Ringfold.  He is a trainspotter!  (I love that Llewellyn made that his hobby as I have heard of it but never knew exactly what it entailed).  He loves obscure facts, dry goods (he works in a supermarket) and being incredibly dorky.  He is deeply into what he likes and genuinely can’t understand why other people wouldn’t like those things.

Enter Gresham and Eupheme.  They are half-sisters and have spent pretty much their entire lives squabbling.  Their train breaks down on the same platform that Ian is currently trainspotting.  Eupheme, the more humane one of the two, bets Gresham that she can turn this sad “anorak” into a “useful member of society.”  Gresham says it cannot be done.  Eupheme (who is short on funds) says that if she can turn this loser into someone that Gresham would fancy that Gresham would pay her a tidy sum.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GORDI-Tiny Desk Concert #740 (May 7, 2018).

I had an idea of what Gordi sounded like (a much more rocking band, who was I thinking of?)  Rather, Gordi is Sophie Payten a woman with a piano (and a harmonium and a guitar).  Gordi has a lovely deep voice (dusky and evocative) that is not afraid to break.

The blurb says her voice

usually gets enshrouded somehow: It often sounds like it’s echoing down a stairwell, or else she’s bathed it in vocal effects a la Imogen Heap or Gordi’s occasional tourmate, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. But Payten’s voice is an expressive and powerful instrument on its own, as her debut appearance behind the Tiny Desk demonstrates.

Aside from a bit of looping — in the strangely infectious notes that open “Heaven I Know,” from last year’s terrific Reservoir — Gordi here keeps her voice both unadorned and centered within warm, cool arrangements that include piano, acoustic guitar, pedal steel, a harmonium named Barbara, a saxophone played by Yellow Ostrich’s Alex Schaaf, and more. The effect here is rawer than on Reservoir, but that’s part of the point: These songs stand up to being stripped down, every time.

“Heaven I Know” is really pretty with a staggering sense of loss.  She met her backing badn while they were playing with The Tallest Man on Earth.  She plays piano, there an electric guitar and some kind of synths in the back.  And the drums (played by Zach Hanson) crescendo as needed.  The song runs a little long but it’s quite pretty.

For “Can We Work It Out” guitarist Alex Schaaf switches to saxophone.  Gordi pulls out the harmonium.  She says she bought the harmonium on the Australian version of Craigslist called Gumtree.  She bought it from an Indian lady named Barbara so the harmonium’s now called Barbara.

For the final song, “On My Side” she’s on guitar and Ben Les switches from keys to pedal steel.  The song is a little faster with some great harmonies from the drummer.

This is really lovely stuff.

[READ: October 10, 2017] Death of the Pugilist

Okay, so this is a boxing story.  That means that there is going to be a fight and the guy he is writing about is either going to win or lose.

That’s the attitude I took when I started this story–I don’t care for sports stories in general and feel that they have to work very hard to be more than just win or lose.

This story is a little different because each section starts with a question.

Who was Burke? His beginnings. (more…)

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herecoverSOUNDTRACK: CHRISTOPHER PAUL STELLING-Tiny Desk Concert #453 (July 6, 2015).

cpsSomehow after 450 some Tiny Desk Concerts I feel like I’ll know anyone that comes along.  But here’s yet another performer who I’d never heard of.  Christopher Paul Stelling plays an old beat up guitar (it ha a hole in it from where it has been worn down.  According to the NPR site:  That guitar, bought in Asheville, looks like a well-worn friend, with its dark bruised wood and his initials hand-carved into its body. Stelling marked the instrument a year after he bought it, when he made New York City his home in 2007.

Stelling plays some amazing fingerpicking and he backs it up with some catchy songs and interesting lyrics.  His voice is rough and reminds me a but of The Tallest Man on Earth.

He plays four songs.  The first “Castle,” is a really enjoyably folky song. His guitar work is amazing and almost as interesting as his lyrics (there’s some nice little twists i the words he sings). I was also amazed at how good the guitar sounded with the holes and carvings and all.

“Scarecrow” is more mellow, a bit sadder.  And when he tunes it up you can hear the resistance in the tuning pegs–that guitar has been through a lot.

“Horse” is a much faster completely intense song.  As the NPR site describes it: “Watch him lean in as if he’s about to lunge, his eyes bugged out, sometimes rolled back in his head revealing just the whites, skin blood-red, voice like a preacher on fire.”  The song is majorly intense, althouhg he kind of reminds me a bit of Chris Pratt’s character on P&R (but not in a funny way).  After the song he he says you see why I didn’t play that first

“Warm Enemy” reminds me of the guitar style of RT. A wild picking song, with some great runs throughout the piece.

It’s always cool to hear of a new artist who is really impressive.

[READ: May 10, 2015] Here

I read about this book when Five Dials devoted an entire issue to it.  And I’m so glad they did, because I probably wouldn’t have heard it about it elsewhere.  And it is fantastic.

In the Five Dials issue they talked about how McGuire had first created a version of this book many years ago–it was 8 pages and ran in Raw Magazine.  Now in 2014, he has redesigned and thoroughly expanded the book, adding color and a ton more information.  And it is really astonishing.

The book itself is quite simple.  We see a scene in a house.  It is a living room.  There is a window to the left, a fireplace to the right and various pieces of furniture.

The first page in the upper left corner says 2014.  There is a couch and little else.  Then there is a bookshelf.  And then the scene jumps back to 1957.  Same location, same angle, but (nearly) everything is different.  The furniture is chanced, there is wallpaper on the walls, there is a playpen in the center of the room.  Then the next page jumps back to 1942: the color scheme is maroon.

here3After a few pages it heads back to 1957 and we see our first person.  A woman saying “Now why did I come in here again?”  And then, the first break with the style–in the bottom right is a tiny box that says 1999 and there’s a cat in it.  And then the next page plays with things even more.  The woman from 1957 is still there as is the cat (who is licking her paw now), but the background is 1623 and the “house” is simply the woods.

The next page shows a scene from 1989 and in 1999 the cat leaves the room.

here2I’m not going to tell every page, obviously, but suffice to say that the next page goes all the way back to 8,000 BCE (while leaving the scene from 1989 in the book).

We see shots from 1763 (a lumberjack) and 1764 (a house being built).  And then in 1775 a colonial scene with, I believe, Ben Franklin.

here5Occasionally, there are a series of frames that show time passing in sequence like the children sitting on the couch in 1959, 1962, 1964, 1969, 1979 and 1983.  Or the one that shows Halloween parties from several years all on one page

The book also goes into the future with a small box showing 2017 and then 2050 with some interesting technology.  And then later forward to 10,175 with a strange creature in a wasteland,

The book is really amazing.  So much fun to look at and imagine the lives that were in this house.

For there is no plot. There is virtually no dialogue.  It is just snapshot after snapshot of a place and what people and creatures have done to it throughout history.  It is such an interesting idea (the original was quite revolutionary at least according to cartoonists) and while similar pieces have been made they don’t compare to the scope of this one.

Incidentally, the house is in Perth Amboy, New Jersey (and I believe is his childhood home).  It offers actual historical data as well as imagined information.  But he based many of his designs on photos from his family’s albums.

I’m so happy I got to look at the book.  And when I read it again, I’m going to try and read it in a vaguely sequential style just to see if there is a “story” to it.

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