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Peter Matthew Bauer breaks out at Bottom of the Hill

Peter Matthew BauerPhotos by Matt Barrick and Nikki de Martini // Written by Kevin Quandt //

Peter Matthew Bauer //
Bottom of the Hill – San Francisco
July 9th, 2014 //

Though The Walkmen have proclaimed that they are on a “pretty extreme hiatus”, it doesn’t mean they have slowed their creative output as the majority of members have released solo albums within a few months of their demise. Hamilton Leithauser channels Sinatra and other old school crooners on his lush sounding release, Black Hours. On the other hand, Walter Martin wrote a batch of songs for his young family to enjoy — singing joyful songs about animals and The Beatles on “We’re All Young Together”. Yet, it’s Peter Matthew Bauer’s debut solo album Liberation! that took the spotlight on a mid-week evening down at the base of Potrero Hill alongside Skyler Skjelset and new-to-the-City band, Tabernacle.

Liberation! is Bauer’s first romp into being the lead man, the songwriter and even full-blown guitarist, as Bauer manned the bass and organ in The Walkmen for a decade. The album is a worldly collective of musings focusing primarily on the emotions that inevitably arose from when his mainstay hung it up. It touches on a lack of previous restraint that comes from band life, as well as the fear of the unknown, as he begins his own endeavor. For his first tour, Bauer didn’t go with a streamlined band, but rather, he brought out a merry bunch of his friends from Philly, including Skyler Skjelset of Fleet Foxes and Bauer’s wife to sing backup vocals.

Peter Matthew Bauer

As the seven-piece band strutted on stage dressed to the nines, it was evident that even with the light turnout, this burgeoning project was here to play its heart out to its early supporters. “I Was Born in an Ashram” was the biographical opening track, on both the album and at the show, and set an energetic performance pace from the pompadoured frontman. He channeled Orbison, Harrison and other legendary impresarios early on as he battled religion and the choices one makes in this life — pretty deep stuff for a guy who is new to this role on stage. This opening number, and even the album as a whole, kind of feels like Sun Studios went on vacation and eventually opened shop in Bangladesh, drawing influence from both the Eastern and Western worlds to create a kaleidoscopic effect.

The album’s title track, “Liberation!”, picked up the rhythm a bit and transported the crowd to a far-off place as the dual backup singers did their best Lijadu Sisters impression to toss some African influence into the melting pot. Between songs, Bauer drew the crowd in with both praise of support and a few stories relating to the current tracks — “Scientology Airplane Conversations” being a prime example. Matt Oliver (guitar), Mickey Walker (bass) and Jess Mcintosh (drums) demonstrated they were the right friends to bring on the road as the core band shined brightly on the newly-penned ensemble tracks, such as “Miracle Mile”. Bauer’s vocal range was impressive, a surprise to this writer who saw him in the background of countless Walkmen shows. Even though it was a fresh sound from what Bauer had been focusing on for the past decade, the influence from his former project was evident while also being refreshing to longtime fans — a well thought-out balance that seemed to flow quickly from Bauer. As the set wrapped up with the mantra-esque album closer, “You Are the Chapel”, the band casually walked off, knowing it had wrecked house.

Peter Matthew Bauer

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