A Night Out In Fishtown: The Tallest Man On Earth

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Tallest Man On Earth
Johnny Brenda’s

A night out in the wondrous villa of Fishtown is always a sweet treat, friends. And when you add a mysterious Swedish guitar dynamo to the mix, it becomes even sweeter.

I can’t for the life of me recall the first act I went to see at Johnny Brenda’s (I want to say Like Moving Insects, but I don’t have the paperwork to back that up), but I do remember how blown away I was by the place. Excellent upstairs and down, great food & local brews, the perfect intimate stage, and a balcony overhead that provides birds-eye gazes upon the best of the best. It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend dropping by.

To start: dinner & drinks. JB’s, much like the Standard Tap (same owners), has an ever-changing menu that almost always delivers, and tonight was pretty close.


For appetizers, my Special Lady Friend and I sampled the BBQ shrimp served on a bed of rice. Interesting, but the rice was actually tastier than the shrimp. C’est la vie.

My entree, on the other hand, was just short of magnificent. Veggie Lasagna, heavy on the mushrooms. Now I am a hardcore advocate of all things delicious and once walking; however, lasagna has always been one of my major vegetarian exceptions (which I make up for around Christmas when Dad makes his famous Pepperoni Sausage Lasagna Inferno). I know that mushrooms are often a meaty substitute, and while I don’t mind them, I don’t love them either. Had JB’s chosen eggplant, it would have been the balls. But still, scrump-diddily-umptious. Along with some PBC Walt Wit and a savory Riverhorse Tripel, top notch eats.


On to the show!

I had heard a lot of hype about The Tallest Man On Earth (folky Swede Kristian Matsson), but hadn’t got around to listening. Then, Beth & I missed him opening for Bon Iver at the Troc when (WTF?) everybody went on exactly on time. But just hearing how blown away Vernon was talking about him made me grab the album the next day and, needless to say, it went on constant rotation. Everybody was calling him the Swedish Dylan and, while he had a lot of Dylan in him, was far from an imitation.

But I must say that watching him live was a different experience altogether. While the music draws more of an early folkier Dylan comparison, his bodily gestures and ultra-thin, tight-pantsed persona alluded more to the Barnaby Street houndstooth speed-addled Dylan. Funny that so many were quick to jump to the Dylan comparison with his record, but what immediately struck me was all the other legends he seemed to channel on that dim JB stage. There was the self-assured cockswagger of a young and virulent Elvis Presley/Elvis Costello (never have I seen the two like-named icons meld like this), along with the latter’s (and David Byrne’s) jerky mannerisms. There were wild-eyed looks directly into audience members’ eyes that brought to mind David Johansen and Iggy Pop. And while it might seem “out there,” the juxtapostion of his acoustic fingerpicking and his in-your-face from-the-diaphragm singing barks made me think of Hendrix playing voluminous Martian guitar licks to a stunned crowd (his initial bellows literally made the entire crowd jolt back like a cheap horror film scare).


He played with a wonderfully flawed fingerpicking style, which is to say that it was almost pristine, but just rough enough around the edges to make it matter. And when he played with a pick, he would end the song by throwing it against the floor, Chris Rock-style. He jittered back and forth from stage corner to stage corner, often sat down and stood up several times within a song, and never played with his capo placed below the fifth fret. The guy commanded the stage, and absolutely stole the show. Then, as if to laugh at all the Dylan talk, closed with “Moonshiner,” and made it better than the master’s. Classic.


I’ve heard John Vanderslice’s new album, and it was all right, but nothing to write home about, if you’re asking this guy anyway. After The Tallest Man On Earth, I just couldn’t imagine sticking around for anything else. And he had to know it.

The Tallest Man On Earth indeed.

Arod McFoolish

23 skidooed by on June 12th, 2009
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This is what the people are saying about “A Night Out In Fishtown: The Tallest Man On Earth”

    Baker commented on June 12th, 2009 - 2:47 am
  1. How was the Riverhorse Tripel?

  2. Beth commented on June 12th, 2009 - 8:33 am
  3. And now onto the wardrobe! The Tallest Man on Earth was indeed pretty tall, as I insisted he must be to Arod before the show. Well, extremely tall or extremely short…

    Kristian had amazing hair – pretty long on top, waxed-up, and messy in the way Elvis might wear it today. Arod insisted he had hipster hair, but this is not one of the things Arod knows much about. American hipster boy hair is messy and slightly greasy, but usually just ugly enough to make you (me) sad. Kristian’s locks screamed European, as did his teeny, tiny frame. Tall and as thin as my calf – not anything I’m usually into, but throw in a Swedish accent and some delicious beers and who knows…

    He wore a button-down shirt that looked dark blue under the Johnny Brenda lights. Sleeves rolled up, which is like a instant aphrodisiac for most women (eh hem, MIssy). Tight, tight black jeans and some chic, black boots.

    Luckily I was there to report back on the important things.

  4. arodmcfoolish commented on June 12th, 2009 - 10:29 am
  5. Delicious, rich and very flavorful. I don’t think I could sit and drink it all night.

  6. Brady commented on June 12th, 2009 - 5:29 pm
  7. That Pepperoni Sausage Lasagna is the best thing I have ever eaten … aww memories.

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