I have been hoping to see a Matt “Cracked” Frye show since I first saw his short set at Roots Family Reunion. TRS finally caught up to him at Goodbye Blue Monday. GBM is an old stomping ground of mine from my early, miserable days in Brooklyn. I lived a few stops down on the J train from the eclectic venue near the Halsey Station, the east side of Bushwick. Back then all of B-wick was hood. I laid in a tiny room I was renting terrified that I would never find a job. Sometimes I think I heard gun shots. If I left my building after midnight there’d be drug dealers posted on the street corners, and prostitutes displaying themselves along Broadway. One time a thick, busty lady of the night was trickin’ out in the rain in a next-to-nothing tube top and skirt. To would-be johns she called out, “I’m already wet, baby, let’s have a good time!” She politely refused my umbrella.
In winter, at our nation’s brokest time I was standing in job lines next to Harvard grads, and ex-Wall Street employees. We were all waiting in the freezing cold, the snow and slush for some janitorial type job. All of us turned down for some congenial 20-something. Disappointed and crestfallen, I’d return home to that little more than a closet of a bedroom and despair over the possibility of having to return to my home in Georgia and move back in with my mama. Survival in this economically bullying city seemed an impossibility. There were many nights of distress.
Five-six years later, I’m back in Bushwick enjoying the hell out of a Matt Frye show. A good quality beer in my hand, at the joint that used to be my haven for free entertainment and $3 PBR on tap. I arrived a little late because GBM is now out of the way of my new digs where I’ve yet to hear a gunshot in the night. Andreea, intrepid photographer, was already snapping away at Matt. Mr. Frye stuck out like a sore thumb at the Roots Family Reunion show, but there amid GBM’s antique junk, bad art, and random curios he looked more in his element.
I have described his music before, here. So, give that a look over and/or give a listen to the music posted here.
Matt is from North Carolina. Charlotte. I was surprised to learn he started out in electronic music down there, which knowing how the majority of southern folks are, I’m sure it was in some way a “fuck you” to his surroundings, to his culture. My culture. Our culture. Then he moved to NYC, and out came the Americana, the Appalachian folkie with the Woody Guthrie “trick” in his voice. Back home, my home, his home, shoddy lip-serviced tradition and commonality are shoveled upon one in heaps. It is no wonder we slide into our punk states of mind. A lot of who I am is because looking at my trailer park neighbors then, I only had one image of myself in mind for the future. Anyone but them.
That’s why books and Leonard Cohen instead of football and Garth Brooks. That’s why rap music and dressing gangsta—until that became socially acceptable to the rednecks who wanted nothing to do with black people as individuals, but would steal and appropriate, as ever, their culture. After that that’s why I wore chokers, and long hair. Because, wild aimless expression over agreement, over broken polite-society. I wonder what that proto-Jody would think of me now as I have succeeded in making it out of that town and into NYC only to seek out southern/country culture. I would tell him whether he realizes it or not, (he didn’t) he was seeded by those things he swore himself against. He could let those seeds germinate and take root in that place of lip-serviced tradition and broken polite-society, and become just another. He didn’t. Or, he could hold them close instead, buck the trends and traditions, give himself to the wind and see what new things can come of old seeds in other worlds. He can cull from the old a new purpose, new point of view, unhindered by tradition, un-buffered by commonality.
Of course, Matt “Cracked” Frye chose that old folkie sound. Maybe he heard it as a babe, or a young man, but knew that it was America’s original “fuck you” music. They were bucking against government, and social norms/injustice well before rap, rock and roll, and even country western music. Of course, he imbued it with a modern urban punk sensibility. Of course he stuck out like a sore thumb before that crowd that came to Roots Family Reunion to hear that traditional old-timey music with their friends from church. He’s an intelligent, kind and funny man, but he’s also one cracked motherfucker. What the hell else was he gonna do?
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