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Matt Wertz

Paradise Rock Club

February 6, 2009

Having been branded with a black “X” on each hand and informed not to drink “adult sodas,” I entered the Paradise Rock Club last Friday for the concert I had been enthusiastically anticipating — Matt Wertz.

I hadn’t heard of the opening band before I bought tickets to the concert, but I was pleasantly surprised by the Alternate Routes. Their music, rock with a bit of a twang, was enhanced by occasional tambourine and harmonica. During the final number, performed by both Matt Wertz’s band and the Alternate Routes, the lead singer stopped harmonizing for an intense whistling interlude. What I was most impressed with was the creative percussion: a tool box filled with what sounded like nails, was used to keep a syncopated rhythm during “The Future’s Nothing New.”

As for the main act, I’ve been following Matt Wertz’s music for four years, since before he signed with a major label. Through the years, his music has evolved; he swaps the acoustic guitar for an electric one every once in a while and incorporates features from a wider variety of genres. At times, a mellow Wertz sounds like John Mayer or Jack Johnson, but occasionally he breaks out the falsetto like Justin Timberlake.

Wertz’s latest album, Under Summer Sun, released last September, features eight tracks from his previously released independent albums and four new songs. One of my personal favorites, “The Way I Feel” is a bluesy yet upbeat love song. Another classic, “Everything’s Right,” which first introduced me to the artist, is featured on the sound track of My Super Ex-Girlfriend. Another song I recommend is “5:19.” Wertz wrote it while waiting for the inevitable break-up phone call from his then-girlfriend. Wertz draws on his experiences to write love songs, a recurring theme in his music. It’s good to know my favorite love song wasn’t written about a sandwich.

In the middle of his set, Wertz took five minutes to plug the Mocha Club, a grassroots effort his friend initiated after a trip to Africa, by encouraging fans to donate $7 a month, roughly equivalent to two cups of mocha, to provide medication, education, and clean drinking water. This wasn’t an annoying celebrity platform; Wertz genuinely described the impact of his trip to Africa and the joy he saw there in the midst of difficulties. He even gave away free CDs to those who signed up that night.

I was impressed by Matt Wertz at the concert. His humor and charisma made the show entertaining. The music was better live. And most importantly, there’s a real person behind the songs — after all, he does claim he’s “just a regular guy.”