by Matt Kelchner
About half way through his set, Huntington Beach native Matt Costa jumped down off the stage, guitar in hand, to join the crowd in a roaring rendition of “Ms. Magnolia”. While still playing, Costa ran upstairs to overlook the rest of his band from the balcony of Johnny Brenda’s while they continued to play.
Matt Costa’s devotion to creating not just a great show, but a lasting experience for each of his fans, like running off stage to play amongst the crowd, resulted in a truly memorable night in Fishtown.
Seasoned singer/songwriter Costa and his band brought their blend of California-soaked pop folk to Johnny Brenda’s Wednesday for a night full of sing-a-longs and dancing. The music made for the perfect soundtrack as the weather in Philadelphia is finally starting to warm up. Joining him for the night were fellow California natives The Blank Tapes and Washington DC’s Vandaveer.
Arriving late, I was able to catch the final song from the well-traveled Vandaveer. Born in Ohio, raised in Kentucky and currently living in the nation’s capital, Vandaveer is the moniker Mark Charles Heidinger performs under. He is the sole member who performs with a rotating cast of different individuals. Tonight he brought with him Rose Guerin. Together, at least for the last song, the two made for a beautifully harmonized tune with the simplest of set ups; just two microphones and a guitar. As the song finished, Heidinger helped his partner down off the stage and then quietly exited himself.
After a short change over between bands and stage setup, The Blank Tapes took to the stage. Originally the solo project of guitarist and singer Matt Adams, they have since expanded with the additions of Pearl Charles assisting with vocals and playing floor tom and snare and D.A. Humphrey on bass. Together, the three took the venue to a lazy, breezy summer day at the California beaches.
A majority of their set was comprised of songs off their upcoming album, Vacation. Tunes like “Don’t Ever Get Old” and their new garage-pop influenced single “Coast to Coast” show off the band’s new sound. Vacation will be the first that Adams did not record using an 8 track. While the newer sounds sound more polished, they do not escape the band’s trademark 60s/70s genre hopping ode to classic California sounds.
The Blank Tapes ended with their heaviest song. Once the guitar wailing and drum banging finished, the set up began for Matt Costa and his band. The four piece outfit along with Costa packed the small stage at Johnny Brenda’s. They also brought enough equipment and instruments for two bands to play. But as the night went on, it became clear why it all was necessary.
As the group took to the stage, the room went from half full to packed in almost a blink of an eye. And as the tall, lanky California songwriter and his crew took to the stage, the crowd cheered and roared. It was clear who they all came to see.
Donned in a dark brown two piece suit and matching bird printed vest, Costa began powering through his career spanning set. While the tour was in celebration of his recently released self-titled album, Costa did not skip out on fan favorites. Songs like “Beyond The Moon”, “Sunshine” and the previously mentioned “Ms. Magnolia” had the entire room joining in on the singing. At times it was so strong that Costa backed away from the microphone to let the crowd take over.
Wednesday night was Matt Costa’s first time playing Johnny Brenda’s. In between songs, he explained how his pedal steel player Joe was boasting about the overall awesomeness of the room (he had previously played there with another band). Costa then added that it not only met his expectations, but greatly exceeded them. All throughout the night shared different stories and tales with his fans.
Early on in his performance, Costa took time out of a song to proudly introduce his band playing alongside him. From start to finish each member was extremely tight and the entire act appeared well rehearsed. The pedal steel player, Joe, stole the show from the other band members. Song after song he added beautiful and perfectly fitting slide guitar parts that flowed with Costa’s melodies.
As the night came to an end, Matt Costa and his band played their final songs and exited the stage. It took only a few minutes for Matt Costa to come back, but this time it was only him. Instead of performed a planned set list, he turned to the crowd to shout their favorite tunes for requests. With just a guitar in hand, he played through “The Road” and “Lullaby”(his song originally recorded with Jack Johnson).
Afterwards he brought his band back out to come together for one last song. This time the song came not by request, but from Costa. He chose the title track off his third album, Mobile Chateau. Leading into the song while softly strumming the chords to the song, Costa went into an almost spoken word-esque tale of the song and how it was about an expected honeymoon trip to the South of France.
Once the last notes of the song were finished, Matt Costa and company again exited after saying their goodbyes. For fans new and old they were given a perfect example of what a show should be like, flawless performances and incredible showmanship.