New Orleans, Louisiana (June 3, 2019) –
Opening for a rock icon could be one of the most daunting gigs a musician might ever encounter. For New Orleans resident, Matt Seferian, of Matt Surfin’ and Friends, who opened for The Lemonheads and Tommy Stinson at the House of Blues in New Orleans, LA Monday night, it was unbelievable. He said so, more than once.
“I’m not sure what we’re doing here but it’s cool”, the guitarist and vocalist said. He was referring to follow up act Tommy Stinson of The Replacements and Guns N’ Roses. Seferian said he knew far too much about Stinson’s life and how surreal it was considering he had been following Stinson’s career since he was a kid.
Seferian refers to his group as an anti-band and calls it more of a collective. Though the rest of the band also hails from New Orleans, Seferian has said he is open to having friends from all across the globe participate on future records and gigs. “It’s a band for friends, by friends.”
Their music is straight up pop rock and is light and breezy, melodic and perfect for an audience of Lemonheads fans.
Though there seemed to be some technical glitches for the band leader, he managed to maintain his upbeat vibe and exuberance at his good fortune of being on the House of Blues NOLA stage just before one of his icons of music.
Stinson started his set onstage, but with an announcement that he wasn’t quite ready and was going to start playing in the men’s room. In just minutes, there was Stinson standing beside the back bar, asking the audience to come closer and have a listen to him on his acoustic guitar. It was the sort of thing that rarely happens at a show, an intimate exchange that was genuine and not at all put on.
He held the audience’s attention as he played several songs on the floor, playfully leaning against middle aged Generation Xers who were out in full force in their 80s band tees and Chuck Taylors and plaid shirts. It was ironic that when Splice photographer Kristen Derr got up close for a picture he shouted “Who the f— is this?” considering all of Stinson’s merch included tees and stickers that read “Who the f— is Tommy Stinson?”
After winning over the crowd on the floor, Stinson decided to get up on stage, plug in and do his job. It didn’t play out quite as well, with Stinson showing signs of resistance to being plugged in and audience members losing focus. Stinson quickly changed it up again and headed back to the floor. After belting out a couple of tunes on acoustic guitar, he ended the set announcing he would probably not play another live show and threw his guitar on the ground, an antic he has been known to pull before.
Evan Dando and his band were much more subdued. Serious, dedicated and tight, The Lemonheads put on an excellent show mixing in new tunes with tried and true favorites, which had the audience cheering, singing, fist pumping…they were a high-spirited lot. “It’s a Shame About Ray” had the audience singing along at the top of their lungs, smiling and hugging one another in a display of pure joy. The band played some cuts from their newest release Varshons 2, the second incarnation of cover songs including the melodic “Straight to You” and the sad, sweet “Abandoned”.
Dando isn’t shy about wearing his heart on his sleeve and telling stories of his past exploits in his music. Songs like “My Drug Buddy” and “Rudderless” speak to his struggles with mental illness and drug abuse, topics he generally does not shy away from when doing interviews and media junkets.
Surprisingly, Dando didn’t chat with the audience much, other than to politely thank them for their support. It was not the band I remembered from the late 80’s. Back then, Dando wandered the music world in bright, psychedelic clothes, dancing to funk music and swapping stories with bartenders and bar flies, holding court wherever he landed. Years of being on the road may have taken some of the pep out of his step but the quality of music he is producing has only gotten better.