Jonah Matranga (Far, Onelinedrawing, New End Original, Gratitude) is not a household name, but his influence on the music scene from the late 90’s through the next decade certainly is. Far, one of the most influential bands on the melodic and post hardcore scene inspiring others such as Thursday, Thrice, Jimmy Eat World, and more. Their seminal fourth album Water & Solutions still stands the test of time. Wednesday, he brought 20 years of memories and emotions onto the stage at Borderline and let an intimate audience into his world of love, life, strife, loss, and strife.
His unhinged and raw vocals filled the room perfectly with nothing more than an acoustic guitar and some old beats he used to programme into an R2-D2 robot. Seeing Jonah live is attune to watching a film with all of its ups and downs, love’s won and lost. It’s an hour and half retrospective on one man’s journey of life through music.
“Music should be a conversation and less of a commercial,” he said at one point and that’s what the gig was as he played with no setlist taking requests from his extensive back catalogue. He also sells his merchandise on a “pay what you can” scale. I challenge you to find another musician who not only makes such statements, but lives by them. He literally wears his heart on his sleeve, his guitar, and his shoes.
As the crowd continued to shout out titles throughout the evening, even those who didn’t know his tunes began to get involved in the show. Jonah may be the only person on that stage, but he performs with a full chorus echoing each track, whether they know the words or not, which he encourages. “Rock and roll isn’t about knowing the words. It’s about yelling and mumbling whatever fits and being a part of it. It’s like sex. You don’t need to know how it all goes. You just need to have a good time together.”
His humble approach to songwriting and life as a whole were brought to the forefront right from the opening song “Livin’ Small,” which set the tone for the entire evening. Jonah covered all ranges of emotions from poppy upbeat tracks like “Smile,” from the early days of Onelinedrawing and “Secret World,” to breakup track, “Yr Letter,” always a fan favourite. He then mixes in even more heartwrenching tracks with songs such as “Hostage” and “At Night We Live.” A fitting tribute to Chi Cheng of the Deftones and a remembrance of the events from 7/7 before closing the set with a sing-a-long to the ever popular, “Lukewarm”.
The show wouldn’t be complete without the inclusion of Jonah’s banter and some crowd participation, complete with a patented t-shirt swap, which I have seen him do before. The exchange culminated in an acoustic cover of the track “Pony,” complete with a cappella strip tease into a brand new R2-D2 shirt from a fan. An experience you’re not likely to see on another stage. In fact, almost everything was a gift from his very dedicated fanbase. In addition to his brand new shirt, the guitar he played was also a gift from a longtime friend up in Scotland who now makes guitars, and his sneakers a gift from a custom airbrush sneaker shop.
I’ve seen Jonah play music in various incarnations over the past 15 years and nothing has changed. He’s still the most genuine, loving person in the music industry and I hope he never changes. If you have the chance to see him on this UK tour, I suggest you take the time. You will not regret it and you’ll make a new friend, guaranteed.