"I first heard about desire lines on some NPR program. They're the paths that are worn in by people ignoring the sidewalks or other planned walkways. Sometime they make sense in that they are a shorter, clearer path than what was planned. Sometimes they don't seem to make sense, but they get where they need to go, and they're generally more interesting. Some area planners put in just the buildings first, then let people wear in the desire lines, then make paths according to what the community has chosen instinctively. Smart."
The DVD portion opens with this quote about desire lines and the concept behind it easily translates to what Jonah Matranga is doing with his music. This is a man that has taken a very nontraditional route to get where he is in the music industry. Former frontman for the group Far, Jonah struck out as a solo act, releasing Eps to fans through his website and maintaining his audience with his constant presence in that online community. I still receive emails from him letting me know what he is up to. And, while I'm not delusional enough to think that he is writing only to me (he does sing only to me through his albums though-secret messages, codes, that sort of thing) it is always nice to get something keeping me up to date with where he was playing and all sorts of other goings on. I admire that intimacy that he encourages with his fans by setting up shows in their homes. And one of those shows makes it on the CD and DVD.
Recorded live in a living room with one microphone for all the sound-crowd, singing, guitar-all the sound, this isn't quite the polished product you'd expect in an album. So informal are these performances that in the first minute of the album we hear 1)someone walk into the house late and be ushered in by Jonah himself and 2)the phone ringing and an audience member saying, "Of course it's Matt." (said as though this were the eighteenth living room concert held in that house and Matt, infamous for either his bad directional sense or the combination of his incessant need to bring chips and inability to make the decision for himself which chips to bring has called…yet again. What a douche!) I was seriously underwhelmed. I'm not a huge live album fan as it is and this underperforms in trying to meet even my low standards. I was struggling to find something to say about the album that didn't use the word "bites."
But the real heart of this combo of the CD/DVD is the DVD. Watching the first minutes unfold and being able to see the twenty or thirty people crammed into a living room with Jonah nervously fidgeting while talking and singing, you really get to see and share in that moment. I realize now-having both watched the DVD and read interviews with Jonah confirming it-that I went at this backwards. The CD supports the DVD and the DVD makes the CD. Being able to recall those images while listening to the CD, helped the CD immensely in my eyes. Ultimately though, it is the image of the performance that carries the whole deal and is what will keep me coming back for more.