America Hearts’ Jess Matthews: The Best of 2012 Live

Jess Matthews and America Hearts are certainly no strangers to TVD. With our very last look back at the year 2012, Jess shares a few personal highlights many of you might have witnessed as well. —Ed.

“In 2012 I was a part of two new records, America Hearts’ Single’s Club and E.D. Sedgwick’s We Wear White. In support of these releases I have been fortunate enough to play more than 60 shows on the West Coast, in the Midwest, the South, at SXSW, in Germany, and the Czech Republic.

Most of the current records that I listen to manically remind me of a live show. So, instead of suggesting that you check out the Grass Widow record (though you should), I thought it would be fun to recap the year by talking about a few of the awesome bands that I got to share the stage with.”

Shotty – Olympia, Washington | This band’s sound is similar to my five-year-old nephew’s laugh; it is diabolical, yet charming and destined to be used in a Mountain Dew commercial right before someone does something extreme. America Hearts played with Shotty in Olympia, WA. The venue was as dirty as it was empty. It had a Galaga machine-thought it didn’t work well-and if you spent more than five minutes outside the club, you were going to be chatted up by aggressive homeless people; no offense to homeless people or aggressive people.

We finished playing to maybe a dozen people, and then were blown off the stage by S- and XS-sized guitar players with large curly hair and tiny, long legs (named Nat and Pat) and a boy-band-handsome drummer. They played fast, somewhat technical, ’90s inspired rock with a strange degree of perfection. Just as they approached a ’90s trope—WHAM—they made a weird change and moved into something as just as inviting and visceral.

Deerhoof – Washington, DC | When it was time for doors—they burst open. A small heard, all kinky haircuts and skinny jeans, speed walked to the front of the stage. A few veered off to stop at the merch table. It was the release show for Deerhoof’s latest record, Break Up Song, and their first time performing the songs live.

It was also the debut of their colored tassels. Drummer Greg Saunter completed the outfit with pants adorned with a map of the world. It was a confusing, yet straightforward, fashion statement that seemed to say, “The world is my pants.”

Back stage, we shared a dressing room with the band, Dope Body who were also playing. They were sweet, yet still intimidating. When they arrived, one of them was bleeding from his head. He said it was cut on barbed wire on the way to the show. That was the full explanation.

Olivia Mancini was playing guitar loudly and Kristen Forbes was playing bass in America Hearts. During Race Car Driver, Kristen climbed her bass amp onto my guitar amp and jumped off, knocking it over. Our favorite sound guy, Aaron Estes ran out and set it straight while gesturing as if “it happens all the time.”

Art Beat Kids Rock Camp – Oakland, California | If you are ever asked to play at a Kids Rock Camp be sure to consider the following:

1. Kids are often doing things like stealing their siblings toys, eating with their hands, throwing tantrums, and avoiding taking showers; it is pretty easy for them to be more punk that you.
2. Like that robot in the science fair that seemed way too good to be made by an 8-year-old, kids are able to enlist expert outside help.

In this case, three bands, Valkyrie, Exploding Pines, and Bandersnatch made up of 8-16-year-olds each wrote and recorded an original song that week in camp and performed their song at the show. Ringers, Sean McArdle, and members of Super Natural joined them.

But it was not the expert shredding, it was the intuitive chutzpa of the kids that slayed America Hearts.

“You are too young to be this sad,” sang 15-year-old Willa, while wearing two bracelets, two hair colors, and playing the bass.

Art Sorority for Girls – Washington, DC | I was under the impression that Fort Reno called to mind dogs, picnics, porta-potties, oppressive heat, and rain cancellations—not a specific type of music. Before E.D. Sedgwick played, I stood by the one tree near the stage enjoying the cake that Pat Walsh brought for his birthday. It was there that I heard Art Sorority for Girls for the first time. And it was there when I realized I have expectations for what bands at Fort Reno should sound like—and that this band’s sound was unexpected—like Pat Walsh bringing me cake at a show when it’s his birthday.

The acoustic guitar playing was somewhat aggressive, never contemplative. The drumming was smart, without being angular. The lyrics were earnest, not confessional, memorable and naïve in all the right ways.

Justin Moyer threw a guitar offstage during the set. It arched upward like an arrow before hitting the well-trotted grass. He thought that it was broken; it turned out it was a cable problem.

We were all sweating. The sun began to leave the radio tower. At the end of the set he stripped down to his underwear. After putting his clothes back on, we packed up quickly and drove to Silver Spring where America Hearts played a Silver Docs party.

Sitcom – Jihlaya, Czech Republic | Jihlava is a small town in the Czech Republic where E.D. Sedgwick played in a club containing large murals of Kurt Cobain and Bob Marley. There was wifi but only one computer could connect at a time, and the power in the venue went out several times before the show. However, the place was warm and the apple strudel they made us was amazing.

The opening band, Sitcom entered the green room and immediately tore the old lace curtain off of the window to cover the commercial radio banner that hung at the back of the stage. They had a guitar player, a keyboard player, and a drummer who played pots and pans and magnets-holding them up to the microphone. They were all covered in glitter. The blond woman-playing guitar was wearing a headpiece that dropped a third eye in the middle of her forehead.

The lyrics to the two songs they played in English were, “Oh, I like it. This is very interesting!” played over smooth Velvet Underground style rambling.

And “I like metal. I like metal. I like metal. I like metal.” played over noise.

The Mean Season – Washington, DC | America Hearts played with the Mean Season in the third installment of our “Singles Club,” the night before we left for California. If you have seen the band at any time this year, you have probably seen someone from America Hearts singing on their song “Heart,” arm wrestling them, or stealing their beer offstage.

There are many reasons to like this band. Here are five, in no particular order:

1. They have a song about breaking up with a guy because he doesn’t respect your alone time.
2. They use a whiskey bottle as a drum.
3. They have a minimalist sound often driven by a floor tom.
4. Their singer has the best hair in DC.
5. They are into ’80s movies, Northern Exposure, and Oscar Wilde.

America Hearts Tour Dates:
1/11/13 with Invisible Hand in Charlottesville, VA at Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar
1/12/13 with Broken Mouth Annie in Hampton, VA at Old Towne Tavern
1/11/17 with Gringo Star and Midnight Spin in Washington, DC at The Black Cat

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