REVIEW: STRIKING MATCHES, 3rd and Lindsley, Nashville, TN, October 16, 2015
By: Patti McClintic
NASHVILLE’S FINEST GUITAR DUO BRINGS IT ALL TO HOMECOMING SHOW
They say you can’t go home. THEY are wrong. When STRIKING MATCHES showed up at 3rd and Lindsley in Nashville on this Friday night, there was no doubt, they were home and ready to rock. They left no musical stone unturned in this no-holds barred performance. Aside from a minor technical problem early on, this band, lit the matches that are their namesake, and were on fire from start to finish.
STRIKING MATCHES is comprised of two stellar guitarists, Sarah Zimmermann and Justin Davis, both Belmont University alumni, and while it’s true that Belmont produces some of the finest musicians in the world, these two have something very unique, and it can only be realized by seeing them perform live. This is where they shine, or rather, explode. It’s like watching the grand finale of a fireworks show on a loop. It’s like they never take a breather. Even their ballads keep that fire burning.
Opening the evening with the high energy number, “Trouble Is As Trouble Does”, any doubt as to what this band was about was erased. These two don’t mess around. They know how to bring it and they understand that starting off strong is the way to reel in an audience. STRIKING MATCHES’ debut album, “Nothing But The Silence”, produced by T Bone Burnette, is packed with songs that can easily do battle with one another for first in show, but this particular track can captivate just about anyone, regardless of what genre they gravitate to. It’s danceable, the hook is catchy and easy to learn, and last, but certainly not least, the guitar work on this one alone, deserves some sort of special recognition.
“Missing You Tonight” followed, and if this is a ballad, it’s far from sleepy. Appropriately titled, the song tells the simple story of one half of a relationship missing the other, but it carries a decent beat and certainly didn’t lose the audience for one minute. This band knows how to place songs on a set list. One of the cardinal sins of live performances is playing a slow ballad too early. Keep things moving and keep your audience engaged for a while. STRIKING MATCHES seems to have received the memo on this.
A little further into the set, drummer, Jacob Schrodt and bassist, Tommy Lee, took a break while Davis and Zimmermann showed their softer side by playing a short acoustic set, including “When It’s Raining”, which is an absolutely gorgeous song, which will probably never be radio material, due to its length, but would easily be an album highlight, reminiscent of the epic long songs that we used to enjoy when vinyl was king.
Anyone that’s been following STRIKING MATCHES would know they’ve had the honor of having some of their songs used on the hit ABC television show, “Nashville”. Davis and Zimmermann treated the audience at 3rd and Lindsley to a beautiful version of one of those songs, “When The Right One Comes Along”. It is a hopeful tune, and it was delivered flawlessly. The song was performed during the first season of “Nashville” by Sam Palladio and Clare Bowen, who play the characters, Gunnar and Scarlett on the show. When asked if anyone in the audience watches the show, things got pretty loud, making it clear that an audience in Nashville supports the show that bears the hometown name.
Sarah Zimmermann, is, above all, a guitar genius. She could very easily keep up with the best guitar players in the world today, and that is no exaggeration. She also plays mandolin, which some audience members have referred to as a “little guitar”. When the band explains to these audience members that it’s actually a mandolin, they have learned something, but obviously, the band has too. That the mistaken identity of a musical instrument can lead to dreams of experimentation. What if a real “little guitar” could be made? Could it work? Those questions were answered tonight. A special “little guitar”, with the Gretsch brand name, was made for Zimmermann, and she proved that if it has strings, she can play it. Davis jokingly referred to this miniature guitar as a “Fake-ulele”, which is about what it resembled, a ukulele crossed with a guitar.
Often times, a cover song ends up being the highlight of the night, and it may be that tonight’s STRIKING MATCHES show was no different. “Crossroads”, a staple of guitar players worldwide, has seen more covers than one can imagine, but when STRIKING MATCHES does it, it’s a whole new ballgame. Originally written and recorded in 1936 by Robert Johnson, but made most famous by Cream in the 1960’s, there is no blues band worth their salt that hasn’t had their hands in this song. I’ve seen it covered many times myself, and even seen it performed by Eric Clapton himself, and I can honestly say, the version I saw on the stage at 3rd and Lindsley tonight, was easily one of the very best I have witnessed. Davis and Zimmermann are not two guitarists playing together, they are two guitarists playing as one body. The chemistry is something that can best be experienced live. They are a living, breathing, powerhouse of guitar brilliance. It’s like watching an illusionist. You know there is a method behind the trick, but somehow, you don’t really want to know how it’s done. I know years of practice have gone into these two musicians, but honestly, I don’t want to hear about that. I want to sit back and pretend it just happens.
It would be remiss to leave out the side musicians that keep the rhythm on that stage. Drummer, Jacob Schrodt and bassist, Tommy Lee, might be in the background, but their own talents are vital to making the duo sound as good as they do.
It would also be a glaring omission not to mention how often this band thanked the audience and expressed their love for the city of Nashville. Transplants to Nashville, as many of us are, they are clearly at home here, and their appreciation of the music community in this town is abundant.
To end the night, a song not normally performed, and not even on the setlist, a cover of Elvis Presley’s, “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You”, was done acoustically by Davis and Zimmermann. The song was a tribute to a friend and supporter from the UK, that was in the audience. STRIKING MATCHES has had great success in the UK, and it was a classy move to sing this song, which they performed for the BBC when bands were challenged to sing a favorite Elvis Presley song.
STRIKING MATCHES is, by my estimation, the best little duo you may have never heard. While their airplay has been limited here in the United States, it isn’t hard to find their music in multiple places, iTunes, amazonMP3, Google Play and Spotify to start with. I promise you, purchasing their music is not a mistake, and by all means, should be done, but seeing them live should be required for all music lovers. They cross all genres and their musicianship is jaw dropping. You can find out where they’ll be next on their website at strikingmatches.com. I suggest you do that. Maybe right now.