TVD Live: Matt Costa, Sam Outlaw, and Carly Ritter at Slims, 3/23

I have to admit that I wasn’t too familiar with Matt Costa before heading over to the show last weekend. The venue was Slim’s which is one of two nightclubs here in San Francisco owned by the legendary singer/ songwriter Boz Scaggs. It has a real charm to it, but it’s challenging to say the least for photographers as the place can get jam-packed very quickly and make it difficult to move around. This was one of those nights.

Matt Costa got his break many years ago when a homemade demo reached No Doubt guitarist Tom Dumont, who offered to record more demos for Costa in his home studio. Those first recordings led to two EPs that Costa and Dumont distributed themselves. These were later combined and mixed by Phil Ek in order to form Costa’s first full-length release, Songs We Sing. He has since toured alongside Jack Johnson, Modest Mouse, Oasis, and Ryan Adams to name a few, and now he’s built up a rabid fan base filling up clubs across the States.

Costa’s latest release is a comeback album of sorts as he surprised many of his fans with 2010’s Mobile Chateau which took his Jack Johnson-ish acoustic sounds into unfamiliar territory. For me, I think it was Costa at his finest as he honed in on ’60s psychedelic/ cosmic pop rock and did it very well. I love it when an artist throws a curve-ball to his or her fans because is reminds them that they are indeed listening to a true artist in every sense.

Whichever side of the Costa fence you fall on, as a casual fan or a devoted follower, his latest release simply titled Matt Costa has something for everyone.  It’s a solid record all the way through and comes across even better live. Costa’s diversity simply stands out from the other singer/ songwriters in the pack. I think he breaks through a bit more because he’s so unassuming.

The surprise of the night for me though came from Los Angeles based country singer Sam Outlaw. This guy came out on stage and immediately had the audience in the palm of his hand. He delivered one liners about playing country music in LA, which is challenging to say the least, while dipping in an out of some seriously great songs. And this is coming from a non-country fan.

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Matt Costa Slims San Francisco Jason Miller-2

Another pleasant surprise was the gift of Molly Jensen singing harmonies with Outlaw. They sang absolutely perfectly together, hitting every note right on the money while playing off of one another in a way that June and Johnny used to do live. The chemistry was undeniable. Sam Outlaw’s ability to deliver both clever lyrics and touching storylines made instant fans out of a non-country crowd. I even bought his record on vinyl and it sounds fantastic. Check out his story here, a country singer living in LA, it’s remarkable.

The second opener of the night was Carly Ritter. Yes, that Ritter, as in her father John. Carly is touring in support of her upcoming record. Her band did a nice job backing her up but I can’t really pinpoint her sound. It’s a bit country, a touch of pop, and a whole lot of  feel good vibes happening. Not really my thing, but I can see the appeal.

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Matt Costa Slims San Francisco Jason Miller-5

And back to Matt Costa. This is one talented guy and he makes it look way too easy. You can tell he’s a Dylan fan from the mannerisms that come through as he cruised through his set.

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Matt Costa Slims San Francisco Jason Miller-9

Matt Costa Slims San Francisco Jason Miller-10

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Matt Costa Slims San Francisco Jason Miller-19

So, there you have it. I recommend checking out Costa’s live show, but I really recommend that you seek out and find a Sam Outlaw show in your town and pick up his debut. This guy is  something very special and I see a bright future ahead for him.

Were you at the show? What do you think of Matt Costa’s new records? Please join the conversation in the comment section below.

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