On the Road: Matney Cook

By: Matney Cook


My spring tour grew from a daydream into reality over the course of last fall and manifested as a fitting way for me to celebrate a transition from one lifestyle to the next (employed to self-employed). The basis of the traveling: to visit the friends and family I have around the country and to play as much music as possible along the way.

With that I set out with a good friend and amazing street musician one-man-band Nick Moyer who was also raised in the lil farm community of Conway (just south of Mt vernon) to mosey down the coast spending two days here n five days there. Our main booked gigs I set up in Chehalis and Phoenix, so we planned on filling in the unbooked time with busking, adventuring, networking and open mics. I heard from friends that getting fill in gigs and playing house parties along the way would happen naturally… I was reassured to hear that because at the outset there wasn’t a whole lot on our schedule other than where we could couch surf in each city.

We met with our first group of vibrant open musician contemporaries in Portland of course! We were slotted to crash on a mattress in the living room of the Loud House on Fremont St courtesy of my longtime friend and rocking drummer Eric Stopke, another Skagit native. We stayed at my cousins country palace in Battleground in the days before our scheduled arrival and Eric invited Nick and I to come see his band Machine play at a battle of the bands in the city- what a treat! Their sound was a rocking breath of fresh air between the vocalist, songwriter, piano player Madeline’s wild style and soulful lyrics and voice and Eric’s powerful heartbeat like drum style (not to mention custom oversized drum kit) I was lit up! This is my friend up there totally firing up the crowd and giving any band to follow quite the challenge! They made it to the final round, winner to be decided after a rematch…they already won me over!

The following morning I awoke to several messages from Eric, “are you and Nick available to play a show tonight?” It was a Monday and I had nothing planned for the whole week other than staying at Eric’s… Of course we can! I’m not even in Portland yet and I already have a show to play!

The gig was at the Slabtown bar which happened to be the same spot that a scene from one of the first episodes of Portlandia was filmed. Holy cow, it was happening! Although we are both solo artists we do collaborate, so Nick and I decided we would make the biggest impression together. Two of the other three acts on the bill were four piece bands so we opened. I felt out of place during the first few songs but warmed up after covering Bowie’s “Starman”. People were stoked on hearing such a different sound in their city! Nick and I work together very fluidly, his trumpet solos accentuated the emotion behind my lyrics.
At the end of our set I went out and networked, saying hello and introducing myself to those who met my eye contact. I ended up meeting the friend of a friend, my friend (another Skagit native) Nate had invited him to the show but then made other plans. He happened to be sitting by a woman with a girlish vibe and an impish beauty. I wasn’t introduced to her until a bit later, by my friend Eric who said, “You gotta come meet this girl, she drew a fantastic picture of you and Nick in the time that you were on stage!” He was right- Grace Passerotti blew me away with the sketch she made of the two of us! She captured both of our looks in a lifelike way, adding touches of her imagination in an inspired yet complimentary fashion. By the end of the show she had made a unique sketch of each act, the others more collage like, each illustration speaking to the vibe of the band in the composition and the facial expressions of the band members.

The band that followed us was called Very Little Daylight. I spoke the most with the lead singer/ songwriter/ guitarist Elliot. He used unique stage lighting and a fog machine to create an ambiance that heightened the experience of their raw yet thoughtful sound. Then Empress totally rocked their first “real gig” laying down a familiar yet original kind of rock and roll…heavy, danceable, heart soothing, they wooed us all! Their set was a huge hit with the crowd from my perspective. The last act was a solo artist on the road called Bad Machine. Most of the crowd had come for Empress’s debut so the place was fairly empty when he started, but since the show started fairly early (9pm) by the time he was a few songs in the late night crowd was filing in. I admired the heart and bravery he brought to the stage- it obviously wasn’t his first rodeo.

Reflecting on the variance of sounds throughout all the acts of the night I realized what we all had was soul although we all expressed it through completely different musical styles. It was a great introduction to the Portland music scene, finishing up with an invite to step onto another stage later in the week, plans for a full on folk jam at Joe’s and an after party including drinks and a game of “speed pool” at the Fremont neighborhood bar. Already I felt satisfied with the amount of connections I’d made with other inspired original musicians and artists in town that would give me an ability to book and gig the next time I traveled through. Why had I waited so long to immerse myself in this town only a few hours drive away from my home? The experience of the synchronicity during our first nights in a new town gave me all kinds of hope and inspiration for exploring the other unfamiliar cities that lay ahead. Goes to show adventure and new friends aren’t ever really that far from your doorstep if you open your eyes, step out into the light and look.

There you have it. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!
Thanks, Matney