My definition of Colorado: home of a gazillion peaks over 10,000 feet, home of the yellow-can banquet beer, John Elway car dealerships, the condominiums of Vail, Aspen, the Flatirons, formerly the home of the Crested Butte Free Ski Week (50-cent shots and naked skiers, top-notch entertainment), and the Boulder Phenomenon.
By looking at either a satellite-enhanced geothermal map or a road map, Boulder is indistinguishable from the greater Denver area. That one little 2-lane highway that was once a mere arm westward of the City That Worships John Elway has been totally encompassed by new development in only ten years. The Boulder Phenomenon. Same thing that happened to Eugene and Springfield, Oregon; to Santa Cruz, California; and, yes, folks, is happening now to our own ‘Zoola, Montucky.
Matthew Moon, who graces Missoula with his presence in a show this Friday, is intrinsically connected to the hip-town population booms (yes: the Boulder Phenomenon), in my mind, having recorded and performed with members of the Samples and Big Head Todd & the Monsters—the OG Boulder bands of national repute. Seriously, how many unhappy and/or adventurous kids across mid-’90s America would have been inspired to converge on Boulder, steal its cigarettes, fill and sleep on its streets, smoke “the diggety,” open all those bead shops on the Hill, and/or purchase one of those yes-you-guessed-it Pathfinders now tackling those mean Colorado streets? If you’ll take a moment to recall, the Samples and Big Head Todd were the early-’90s trailblazers that practically ushered in the neo-hippie jam-bands that have since joined in the national spotlight: Blues Traveler, Widespread Panic, the Dave Matthews Band, Phish, et al.
So Matthew Moon is deep in the roots of the Colorado music scene, and you can hear it loud and clear on his new album More Than I Can Give. I mean, I’d plain forgot what the Samples sounded like; and they sounded almost as good as Matthew Moon does today. It’s that acoustic guitar that’s been barely amplified via something a little more sophisticated than a pick-up; that shuffling dance-friendly beat with the tight-yet-unobtrusive bass lines; and the Hammond B3 organ. This was the preppy side of the hip, West Coast ‘90s high school experience.
Don’t get the wrong idea, though; the album itself isn’t homogeneous. The title track (supposedly inspired by Matthew’s experience as a T.A. at UC-Boulder with a hard-working student who kept asking for more work—but I listened to the song buddy, you can’t fool me: “we should have never had that one-night stand?” Hey, this is a love song, pal, you can’t outwit my quick ear!) is true to the “Colorado sound,” but the second song gives birth to an edgier sound, a la Tom Petty’s Wildflowers, and the third track is where Moon breaks hissol’funkaystufff. “BBQU” is a refreshing approach to the break-up song (while, um-hum, maintaining the confessional tone of the album).
“I’d rather be known as a songwriter than as a solo virtuoso,” says the singing guitar player. At the same time, “playing live with a band creates more possibilities for the live performance.” Matthew Moon holds himself to it this week.
Matthew Moon plays the Ritz this Friday, Sept. 15 at 10 PM. Cover TBA.