Matt Costa captivated the Bowery Ballroom on Monday night and although he’s not from New York, it felt like a long overdue homecoming.
Opening the night was Vandaveer, a girl/guy duo from Washington, D.C. Mark Heidinger played acoustic guitar and Rose Guerin sang perched on a bar stool with chemistry hinting at just how extensively they’ve toured together (500+ shows). From his black boots and fraying shirt to the flowers clipped in her curls, you could tell before they began playing that they were country. The set was short and intimate, interspersed with Heidinger’s adorably self-deprecating banter and continual thanking the audience and other bands. It may have been a quiet audience but you could tell everyone was silently grinning.
Next came the Blank Tapes, who barely cooed a “Hey there,” before crashing into a sweaty set of nostalgia-driven lo-fi psych rock. They mentioned they were from San Fran, which was easy to guess from the flowers embroidered on the Sgt. Pepper-style jean jacket and drummer Pearl Charles’ bohemian bell sleeved dress. The three-piece, led by 60s rock veteran and lead guitarist Matt Adams, marched through a half dozen tunes about beach parties, drugs, and surfin’ safaris. The Blank Tapes were a jump-start the crowd needed.
Around 10:15 the headliner was up. The last time I had seen Matt Costa was at a free show in Philadelphia, part of WXPN’s Free At Noon series. It was in 2010, before the release of his third album Mobile Chateau. The room was decently filled, but for a free performance, it was underwhelming. I wasn’t sure what kind of crowd would fill the Bowery for Costa, but by the time he emerged, the place was packed. Costa has decidedly become a commanding presence on stage and in the Indie music world. He led fans through powerful new material from his upcoming self-titled, Matt Costa, and jumped into the crowd to host enormous sing-alongs to old favorites like “Sunshine” and “Miss Magnolia”.
Costa’s folk-pop style is lovable and addicting, making new fans and reinforcing the admiration of old ones. He has built up a substantial repertoire of material from his four albums and ended up playing for over an hour and a half. By the time he wrapped up his encore, which included “Whiskey and Wine” and how it was inspired by the first time he got drunk, it felt like the crowd was gathered around a campfire with old and new friends, all coming together in the realization of what a maybe not-so-secret treasure Matt Costa has become.
Photographer and SIMGE contributor Jonathon Bernstein captured all the action as Matt Costa, The Blank Tapes, & Vandaveer rocked the Bowery Ballroom. View his excellent work below.