CSU Monterey Bay was built on Fort Ord military base, which was used during the Vietnam War. Many of the original buildings have been remodeled for the campus to use, as is the Black Box Cabaret, a campus cafe for music and art.
The weather in Monterey last Friday night was rainy and chilly. Inside the Black Box, the air was warm and the people were friendly, all 60 of them. The walls were lined with Christmas lights and on stage there was a man with a guitar. Overall, it had the feel of a big house show; complete with semi-fuzzy vocals and bright guitars; but it sounds better that way.
The man on stage was Vavak, an acoustic guitarist from Long Beach who was the opening act of the night. His music is reminiscent of a modern Bob Dylan, but with the hair and soul of Ziggy Marley. His acoustics, both instrumentally and lyrically, were a nice addition to the friendly atmosphere.
Vavak gave the night a sociable welcome and warmed up the stage for Jonah Matranga, a solo singer/songwriter known in the independent music world as One Line Drawing.
Matranga had two instruments: A black acoustic guitar and a laptop for beats. He began his set with two cover songs, including one by the Jackson 5.
He then played “Crush on Everyone” and “Stay” together as one song without a guitar, just using his computer for a beat. He also stopped mid-way to tell a story and a quick joke.
Between songs, he discussed the philosophy behind his music and told stories about certain songs. At all of his shows, Matranga likes to interact with the audience, even that night, despite a mention of having the flu.
Later, Matranga played a number of requests from the audience, including “Livin’ Small,” and a short, comical song called “Puppies.”
One of the things that sticks out in Matranga’s personality is his love of people; he was very gracious to his opening act and thankful to CSUMB for letting him play.
“I hope I get to come back and haunt these old buildings soon,” he said before his last song.
Matranga closed with a Bob Dylan tune, which he said is about “getting stuck in the most dangerous place in our time; fundamentalism.” He left the stage telling the audience, “I wish peace for you in the most active way.”
Following Matranga was Ryan Bisio, a CSUMB student who finished the night with an artful acoustic set.
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Matranga, 36, has made a living making music for the last 10 years, playing in bands New End Original and Far, and having friends play on his solo records.
“I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love it,” he said. “I’ve never known where I’ve fit in. I’ve tried all kinds of labels, ‘indie’s,’ majors, I’ve put out records out of my house and I’ve played Coachella, but then I played in someone’s living room, it’s honestly all kind of the same for me. I love Prince and Tom Waits equally. I don’t fit into any particular scene and I’m ok with that.”
Lately, Matranga’s music has more of a beat.
“Whatever comes is Ok with me,” he said. “No one’s going to confuse it with a Justin Timberlake song. It a way, it’s me enjoying R&B and hip-hop, but not trying to be a hip-hop artist. That’s not me, but I love the medium.”
Matranga says the current state of the music industry is very interesting, because artists are being forced to be more original and unique.
“I think a lot of people are scrambling right now and I like that,” said Matranga. “I think it’s challenging people to think more creatively than I think they had to in the past 20 years.”
In part, it’s this creativity that makes Matranga strive for the directness of peace in his music.
“I guess (if a person leaves a show) a little less sure of the things they believe and a little more open to something else, I guess that would be a goal of mine,” said Matranga.
Matranga has done his music in many ways, many of which ways have worked for him.
” I think the most fun is that the more direct I can be in contact with people who like my art, the better,” said Matranga. “Honestly, if I could just sell all my own music on my Web site, I think that would be nice,” said Matranga. “As long as it keeps on being this fun, that is really the most important thing to me. Whatever shape (my music) leads to, it might just turn out as much fun as possible, and that’s a good shape.”