Over a decade ago, the Bay Area was home to a new local pop-punk band called The Locals. These four young boys, still in high school, were just starting out in an emerging local music scene, practicing and recording in their parents’ basements and building their repertoire. The group consisted of Shawn Harris (lead vocals, guitar), Jon Devoto (lead guitar), Justin SanSouci (bass), and Matt Whalen (drums). Shortly after forming, The Locals were forced to change their name to The Matches, due to a copyright infringement claim, but the group continued to stay a local treasure in the Oakland music scene and always kept a special connection with their hometown fans.
This connection was bred in the mid-2000s at the now-defunct Oakland venue iMusicast. The Matches began to produce their own recurring show there, called L3 (Live, Loud, and Local). These shows were an amazing platform for many other local Bay Area bands to be seen and to perform on the same bill as more well-known headliners, like The Plain White T’s, Zebrahead, and Sugarcult. The Matches released their debut album E. Von Dahl Killed the Locals (a slightly cryptic reference to their forced name change) on their own in 2003. But in 2004, they were signed to Epitaph Records and released the album under the new label, with newly mastered versions of the songs. The band released two successful follow-up albums in the years following; but in 2009, they announced they would be breaking up indefinitely.
Earlier this year, The Matches took to social media to hint at a reunion show coinciding with the 10-year anniversary of their debut record’s release on Epitaph. Ten years is a significant milestone regardless, but it also marks the year that the band earns the rights to their own songs back from Epitaph, and they wanted to celebrate that. They planned on putting together a show or two in the Bay Area, but fans quickly came out of the woodwork (or perhaps they never left) and showed overwhelming interest in bringing the band to other locations. They ended up playing nine sold-out shows across the country, and in true Matches fashion, they invited their friends to open for them in all of the cities.
I had the pleasure of attending two of their NYC shows on Nov. 15 & 16 at the Gramercy Theatre. Since The Matches broke up, this tour marks the first time they’ve performed together as a band in five years, but an uninformed audience member would never know it. From the very first song of the show, “Dog-Eared Page,” their signature youthful energy was back and just as strong as it ever was. In their first set, they gave their fans just what they wanted by performing the E. Von Dahl Killed the Locals album in its entirety. Each night they came out for a second set and played a variety of their most beloved original songs from their later two albums, mainly performing tracks from their sophomore album, 2006’s Decomposer (co-produced by Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus).
When front man Shawn Harris and lead guitarist Jon Devoto spoke to the audience between songs, they told a delightful smattering of nostalgic stories and expressed their sincere gratitude to their fans for allowing this reunion tour to turn into something bigger than they ever imagined. I know I’m not alone in hoping The Matches’ exciting return to the stage this fall will lead to a new beginning for these local Bay Area boys.
Photo By: Courtesy of www.epitaph.com