fbpx

The Suitcase Junket : Cat’s Cradle Back Room

For a long time, my notion of a one-man band was embodied by Dick Van Dyke’s turn as Bert in Mary Poppins—talented sure, but more gimmick than genuine. That image was dashed in the best way when when I first saw The Suitcase Junket back in 2016.

One-man tour de force Matt Lorenz has been recording and touring as The Suitcase Junket for well over a decade now, banging out lively sets on a motley collection of pots, pans, silverware, suitcases, gas cans, and bones. Crowning the kit with a dumpster-salvaged guitar, he vacillates between fuzzed-out gritty blues and melodic roots hooks.

Beyond the eclectic kit, overtone singing is one of The Suitcase Junket’s most obvious points of distinction. It’s a curious sound—somewhere between a droning bass kazoo and a melodic whistle—that leaves you wondering what exactly you’re hearing and how Lorenz is pulling it off. As Matt puts it, “It’s the sonic equivalent of light passing through a prism, producing these harmonizing tones.”

With his newest album Mean Dog, Trampoline hot off the presses, The Suitcase Junket takes a bold step beyond the lo-fi, self-produced approach of his previous releases. Working with producer Steve Berlin (Los Lobos, Deer Tick, Greensky Bluegrass), Lorenz has crafted a bigger, lusher sound that strengthens and expands on his carefully built foundation.

Far from his primary stomping grounds in the northeast and mid-Atlantic US, this was The Suitcase Junket’s first show in Raleigh-Durham in several years. But even with a lighter crowd, there was a palpable fervor building from the first pulsing beats of “On Our Own” to the final whispered notes of “Old Machine.” A few people were established fans, but most were experiencing Lorenz’s performance for the first time—they were not disappointed.

I made some moonshine
So I could put it in a song and not feel the frost
But I still don’t have a song about knowing God
Or God knowing me
I made moonshine
And it’s just as clear and cold as a mountain stream
And it tastes like a solvent that could clean
This old machine

– “Old Machine”

The Suitcase Junket may have welcomed more people into the studio, but live it’s still a solo affair—which isn’t to say he doesn’t get a little help. With a quick wit and wry smile, Lorenz pulls the crowd in and makes them as much a part of the performance as himself. From joke-filled explanations of his technique to his theories on cultivating creativity in the future generations and the socioeconomic role of dogs, the set was peppered with a lively back-and-forth, drawing people ever closer to the stage.

Highlights included the rousing album opener “High Beams,” a galloping ode to unrequited love and a unplugged version of “Old Machine” with Lorenz balanced at the edge of the stage leading the crowd like a choir.

The encore was also a standout—a rollicking cover of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” requested by a fan. It was a barn burner, with many in the crowd dancing enthusiastically along for the whole song:

Check out the full setlist and catch The Suitcase Junket on the road in support of Mean Dog, Trampoline with a string of West Coast dates through early June before heading back East through the summer.


CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.

Subscribe

Don't miss out on weekly new content or exclusive deals