I don’t know why people don’t have parlors in our homes any more. I guess cause its no longer the 19th century. But every time I step into the venue at Union Hall in Brooklyn, I feel like I’m being invited into an old timey parlor for some good old-fashioned storytelling of the days of yore. And there couldn’t be a more appropriate venue for the sounds and tales that Vandaveer and Matt Duncan shared with the audience that night.
Matt Duncan kicked off the night welcoming everyone to his neighborhood with a smile and busting out sounds that reminded me of Jackson Browne and his peers. Duncan, like Vandaveer, originally hails from Kentucky, and once his catchy tunes start, you want to bop along making sure you don’t spill any Pappy Van Winkle. His music is three-minute catchy hooks juxtaposed against struggle and loss. Duncan’s music is bright and bold and you can’t help but feel joy as you watch him smile throughout the night. A Matt Duncan show is akin to having wave after wave of melodies that sound like they would’ve ruled the radio back in the late 70s wash over you. It’s almost the perfect sound for the coming summer.
The headliner of the night was the group known as Vandaveer. It began as the solo project of Mark Charles Heidinger back in D.C. in 2006. I first encountered Vandaveer at the recommendation of a friend when I was living in the District and feeling down in the dumps. I went down to Iota, a teeny-tiny venue in Arlington, Virginia to hear Heidinger sing. At the time he was joined by Rose Guerin and when I needed to hear tunes that would warm me up and help me get lost in tales of Americana long gone, Vandaveer delivered.
Since then the band has grown to a six piece, but the heart and soul of the band remains intact. At the center of Vandaveer is an indie-folk roots-filled sound. Yet there is a distinct dusty pop vibe to Vandaveer that keeps it from being trapped in one particular sound. Much of the song writing in Vandaveer is fueled by joy and heartbreak. The music feels so ethereal and almost like an exploration of the human psyche.
On this night, the band played nearly the entirety of their new record, The Wild Mercury. And Heidinger painted many a landscape. From singing about “ancient astronauts” shattering their high scores on Asteroids at the arcade, in the titular “The Wild Mercury” to the musician who fights the desire to stay home or flee for the fire and adventure on the open road in masterfully melancholic “A Pretty Thin Line,” these songs sound so personal to the musician, yet they feel like they belong the audience as well.
And that’s saying nothing of the contrasting vocals brought forth by Heidinger and Guerin. While their vocals are distinct, together they bring a filling richness to each tune as they play off each other. Combined they are a hypnotic focal point to the rustic ditties that are Vandaveer.
On a side note, I need to thank Heidinger. When I first moved to New York a few years back, taking pictures of concerts was just a dream I had. But one night after watching Vandaveer fill up the Mercury Lounge with their almost philosophical tunes I walked up to Heidinger after the show and mentioned how much I would love to one day take pictures of their shows. And his response was just what I needed to hear in that moment. He told me to go for it and they’d love it if I took some snaps. So years later I just want to say thanks to Vandaveer for giving me just the right nudge to go ahead and do something that I can’t imagine living without these days. And now, I finally got the chance to take pictures of Vandaveer. So, thank you Mark and Rose. Once again Vandaveer delivered.
Article: Omar Kasrawi