Cityfolk’s City Stage drew large crowds last night with stellar performances by Nathaniel Ratliff & The Night Sweats and headliner Jack Johnson, but it was inside the Aberdeen Pavilion’s Ravenlaw Stage that was the site of the night’s best kept surprise. One man sat in the middle of the stage surrounded entirely by what looked like a junkyard selection of musical instruments, yet what he would do with them would be pure magic. Hailing from Massachusetts, Matt Lorenz, aka The Suitcase Junket, locked himself into the cockpit of his homemade percussion contraption, beat-up guitar in hand, and began to play.
He opened with two back-to-back songs from his Make Time (2015) album. First with “New Old Friend”, he sang into the belly of his guitar, where it resonated in the sounds of his long howling calls. But it was in “Earth Apple” where he kicked into a powerful surge of sound that filled the room with bass-heavy distorted guitar tones, and a combination of drum and percussive sounds ranging from booming bass to shrill metallic surfaces. Add to that a variety of vocals that ranged from hoots and hollers, yodelling, vocal flips, throat singing, as well as just a marvellous singing voice, and you have a one-man orchestral garden of wall-to-wall sound.
There was no limb left unused, as he continued to take us through a library of songs from his past several albums, including his recently released, “Pile Driver.” I loved the music’s organic folk-rock rawness of tunes like the very catchy, “Never Leave, Let Me Be” (Dying Star 2016), that featured a kind of throat singing you’d have sworn sounded like the whistling wind. Ones off the new album with heavier instrumental muscle, like “Mountain of Mind”, and “Evangeline”, transformed the room into a small rock stadium, with a sudden rush of people who swarmed around the stage to dance. Another called “Jackie”, named after his pet chicken (another story he would tell us later), was a tip of the hat to one of his rock ‘n roll influences, Chuck Berry. It didn’t take long before the crowd was in the palm of his hand, and participating in some call/response singing antics. I also enjoyed his vibrant, homespun version of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock ’n Roll” where he even stomped out his best John Bonham.
He paused frequently to talk to the audience: at one point, introducing the “members” of the band, the job each one played, and what instrument, like the left foot-controlled baby-shoe-on-the-gas-can drum for instance. He even demonstrated how he made his throat singing sounds, a skill he mastered over a 5-year period while driving in his car. A music graduate from Hampshire College in Massachusetts, he studied music composition, performance, and instrument design, which would come into play in his desire to become a one-man band. The guitar he played he found in a dumpster and fixed up along with an arsenal of other junk items he has turned into worthy tools of music.
By the end of the set, the audience didn’t want to let him go. I can truly say I’ve never seen a one-man act that could play so many instruments at once, nor sing in such varying styles and sounds. The Suitcase Junket is a shining example of true ambidextrous musical talent, although he would tell you it all continues to be a work in progress. Regardless, one thing is for sure… he made a multitude of new fans tonight.
Catch The Suitcase Junket again tonight on the Ravenlaw Stage from 6-7pm.
CityFolk runs from September 13-17, 2017 at Lansdowne. Visit https://cityfolkfestival.com for the lineup and schedule. Keep checking back for more Apt613 CityFolk and Marvest coverage and follow us on Instagram for the latest photos.