By the time I got to VCS this week – which was at 9:10, approximately – I was disappointed by an empty chai dispenser; however, Matt Hires’s music quickly refocused my attention to the main event on stage. Returning for his second year in a row, Hires wasted none of his time in the Mays Center. He played song after song, all of which were originals, and took the occasional break to connect with the audience. Needless to say, I forgot about the chai almost immediately.
The Nashville-based singer-songwriter was accompanied by three other band members, one of whom was a drummer – something we do not see very often at VCS. Unlike his last visit where he was an acoustic soloist, the band vibe was energetic, electronic, and passionate. Many of the songs they performed that night were from his new album “American Wilderness,” and addressed songs of personal contemplation and self-reflection. The messages he illustrated through his music lingered throughout the venue, creating an intimate atmosphere.
Hires said, “It’s the most cohesive body of work that I’ve put out, and I didn’t intend it to be that way – it just happened. One of the first songs I wrote for the album was the first track, ‘Fighting a Ghost.’ The second verse contains the line that the title of the album came from. A lot of the ideas behind a lot of the other songs came from that – feeling a little lost amidst all the noise and commotion of culture and society.”
One song entitled “A to B” urged the audience to live life to the fullest with the chorus lyric, “You can live your life walking in a straight line, but it’s more than just A to B.” The song had a relieving sense of uncertainty, following the theme of the album; the motions of each individual going through life is never set, but there is still comfort in that. Hires delivered this motto especially in “A to B” implying that as long as we take advantage of the journey, the rest will fall into place.
The oldest song he sang at VCS was written 10 years ago for his fiancee at the time (and now wife of eight years) entitled “Honey Let Me Sing You a Song.” Right before his sang this, he shared a story of when he was asked by a fan to sing this song as he was proposing to his girlfriend in a restaurant. After many unforeseen issues, Hires was interrupted mid-song by the restaurant manager telling him he cannot sing in the restaurant. This story certainly elicited a chuckle from the Bates students and the song itself was quite beautiful too. After that, he sang a song about two people who fall in love on an airplane as it starts to crash, entitled “Red Eye.”
Hires released two previous albums: “Take Us to the Start” in 2009 and “This World Won’t Last Forever, But Tonight We Can Pretend” in 2013. Hires brought quality music to VCS this year, and I can only hope Bates brings him back again.