Matt Maeson: the king of misfit pop


Bart Carmody

Bart Carmody

A gloomy Tuesday evening in Brooklyn set the perfect scene for alternative rockstar Matt Maeson to visit. On Oct. 29, he brought his talents to New York, performing his first-ever show at Brooklyn Steel for the “The Day You Departed” tour. Fans lined up around the corner of the venue, anxious for a good spot in the pit. It’s imaginable that this made it all worth it for Maeson, too—the Virginia Beach native has come a long way from performing at open-mic events in a Chick-Fil-A.

The 26-year-old singer/songwriter’s passion for music spawned when he learned to play the drums at the age of two. He found his footing when he began playing guitar at age 15. Maeson would perform in prisons and at biker rallies with his parents’ ministry. As he produced and released official recordings and EPs on SoundCloud, his work gained recognition from some big names, including Mumford and Sons’ Ben Lovett. Lovett helped Maeson organize his first U.S. headlining tour in 2016, launching him into the public eye and snagging him spots at numerous music festivals.

During the tour, Maeson’s stage was drenched in a deep blue light, his name in all-caps spread across the backdrop in a skeleton-esque font—very fitting for Halloween. Maeson stood in a “The Hobbit” t-shirt around an assortment of towering fluorescent light poles that provided the atmosphere for the night. After his bandmates took to the drums and keyboard, he grabbed a guitar from an off-stage crew member and did not hesitate to start his melodious confessionals. “Well, I come a long way from the trips and the shaky hands / If you’re lookin’ down on me I could really give a good goddamn,” he sang from his track “Tread on Me.” The song was a perfect introduction to the night as it set the tone for his bold and unabashed style of telling his juvenile mishaps.

As the rockstar performed more melancholic ballads like “Tribulation,” the light poles dimmed to a lighter blue. As he shifted to the woefully hopeful “Straight Razor,” the stage lights bathed Maeson in a radiant yellow-orange. He even took the liberty to perform some songs without his bandmates, going back to his roots by using only his voice and guitar.

As a preface to the heart-wrenching “Beggars’ Song,” Maeson offered an anecdote to the crowd, claiming that he wrote the song while on a weekend-long bender following many drinks at SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas. He described the moment as “being in a very dark place,” and claimed that the song was a prayer of sorts. The silence of the crowd alone showed just how closely fans resonated with Maeson’s tales throughout the night.

However, these gloomier moments were not at the expense of his eccentric side. During his more upbeat performances, Maeson exhibited a vigorous stage presence, skipping and dashing to either side of the stage, effectively getting the crowd to move their feet. He kept the crowd laughing as well; he introduced his biggest hit “Cringe” with the preface, “Okay, this next one’s called ‘Wonderwall.’” The crowd needed merely the first couple of chord progressions to know exactly what he meant by that, and as soon as Maeson’s vocals jumped in with “Lover, come over, look what I’ve done,” the audience began to harmonize. Maeson has cited the song as being a letter to anyone in his hometown whom he expects is disappointed in or turned off by his rebellious lifestyle, adding a deeper meaning to the bridge, “Oh I make you cringe now / Don’t I make you cringe?”As he delivered the tumultuous outro of the song, the light poles around him flashed in red-and-white patterns as if they were fluorescent candy canes.

Maeson surely made his mark at Brooklyn Steel that rainy Tuesday night. It’s rare that an artist can so effectively make a crowd sing, sway and frantically dance all in the span of an hour, but this rockstar made it all seem so easy. To some audience members’ surprise, even security was getting into the rhythm of the music.

If you’re interested in his sermon of nostalgic delinquency and hometown heartbreak, be sure to catch Maeson at any one of his upcoming shows on the “The Day You Departed” tour.