Jonah Matranga , with support from Polar Bears In Purgatory and Witching Waves, at Tooth & Claw, Inverness.
Whilst you lot were lazing about in your Batman pyjamas and watching River City on Wednesday night, wee Marty was alleviating his post Belladrum blues by dousing himself in Heverlee and freewheeling through a mid-week gig at the Tooth & Claw. Our fair City played host to not one, but three acts of varying pace and genre – Jonah Matranga, Witching Waves and Polar Bears In Purgatory
Upstairs in the Tooth & Claw is a great venue for smaller acts looking to get the most out of the punters who appreciate a more intimate or intense experience. After the obligatory 3 pints of Whateverisontap I headed upstairs where the first band Polar Bears In Purgatory were beginning an acoustic set. Usually PBIP are a 4 piece punk outfit from Ayr but on Wednesday they appeared as a couple of guitars and some mad Scottish punk patter. Sounding a bit like a Scottish Blink 182 but without the side of mediocre Jackass-esque patter, the pair begun with a cover of the Cheers theme tune and then ripped through 4 songs without pausing for so much as a mouthful of their on-stage pintage.
Songs like Tequila Breath and Get to Fuck You Fucking C*#$% demonstrated the band’s sense of humour whilst also providing some pretty decent hooks around the subjects of getting overly pished and that universal feeling of despising your ex. I really enjoyed the set offered by the lads and I would be very interested to catch them at their full strength because their lyrics are witty, catchy and on the money, and if you added some proper punk volume (and perhaps a few more spectators while you are at it) you might be in for something special. The good news is that 2 of the band have moved north so we may be hearing more from these guys around the town pretty soon.
Witching Waves were next on the bill and after a brief sound check they wasted no time in parading some frantic indie post-punk in front of the bijou crowd. Dressed like they were on an impromptu office night out and making a din akin to a less bottom heavy Sex Bob-omb (oblique reference number one), Witching Waves were a hopped up ride through ‘almost punk’ but they verged on being a little samey sounding especially if you held them up against the act that came before. The drummer was the only thing that really kept my attention throughout the set as she furiously bounced along and put in the biggest effort when it came to vocals and stage presence. It was a decent enough sound, but I was almost waiting for something to happen that just never quite arrived (apparently a lot of men experience that sort of thing at my age). They are supporting Jonah Matranga on his summer tour if you fancy a trip south to see them as it looks like it only English dates left. Talking of Jonah Matranga…
The headliner of the night Jonah Matranga is an unassuming fella. Dressed in a black Ramones Tshirt and black jeans, he welcomes and thanks the crowd for coming out on a random Wednesday to see him and his pals. He has a sweetness that makes you believe him when he claims it’s “great to be back in Inverness” and who am I to doubt him? He starts with a song Lost, Then Found dedicated to his father whose birthday it was that very day and it set the tone for the rest of our intimate 30 minutes with Jonah.
Jonah’s sound reminds me a lot of Loudon Wainwright III and he has the chops to (almost) match such a legend. He moves on and verges on the overly-saccharine when he dips into a song that professed us ALL to be angels and if you’ve ever been to McDonald’s at 3am on a Saturday morning, you know this statement is far from the truth. The thing is that you choose to let Jonah get away with these glimpses of such humming patter as his stories in between songs and the authenticity with which he presents his material makes it a very honest and engaging performance from the man. He oozes optimism as he sings Weirdos Like Me and you can’t help but entertain the thought that it’s your own crippling, sniggering cynicism that’s the problem and not this grinning, buoyant American singer-songwriter that’s eroding your soul.
Jonah ends a half hour set of goodness with a cover of Dylan’s With God On Our Side after talking about his disappointment about his own country’s politics and the poison that is The Donald. All the way through his set he revels in inviting the audience in to his personal glass case of emotion and it almost feels like a confessional at times rather than a gig. He skirts the line between being the over-sharing stranger sat at the bar that you cannot escape from but thankfully he emerges as a purely relatable character who writes songs from the heart that can be crafted beautiful and be pure insightful ‘n’ that, but equally they can just as easily fall into the category of “Humming Angel Patter” (look out for that new section in HMV coming soon).
Jonah is an honest-to-god singer-songwriter with charm and talent on his side. A good guy and a good singer. His tour continues if you can face going south of the border down Newcastle way.