Matt Sharp woos Iowa State crowd

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By Chris Kramer

A crowd of 300 packed the Memorial Union at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, to watch singer Matt Sharp perform on his first tour in three years.

Sharp, the original bassist for Weezer and founder of the Rentals, was touring to support his upcoming self-titled album, his first since disbanding the Rentals.

The mellow mood of the crowd reflected the somberness of the music being played by Sharp, along with Greg Brown of the band Cake and Josh Hager.

Audience members sitting on the floor and onstage with the performers created an intimate setting.

“There’s something special about shows this size you can’t find in rock shows in arenas,” Sharp says. “You can really connect with an audience this size and make it something really special.”

The trio played a collection of songs from Sharp’s new record as well as a number of songs originally done by the Rentals.

Sharp formed the Rentals while still in Weezer in 1995 with a group of friends. The band recorded its first album, a synthesizer-driven new-wave record, in just a few days.

Sharp soon left Weezer to focus all of his energy on the Rentals. The follow-up album, Seven More Minutes, was written and recorded over a period of two years, while Sharp was living in London and Barcelona, and was a departure from the previous record.

Sharp’s new record, due out early next year, was written and recorded in Leiper’s Fork, Tenn., a small town an hour outside of Nashville. That was where Sharp and Brown lived for most of a year, focusing all of their energy on the songs.

“We just put a studio in the van, headed out, set up a home studio, and started to record,” Sharp says. “I didn’t really have a specific reason, I just knew it was going to become a record and not a Rentals record. I just knew that it was going to be soft, slow and sparse.”

The result is a coalition of mellow acoustic songs and soft, ambient music created by Hager.

“Josh makes this hauntingly beautiful music,” Sharp told the audience. “The first time I heard it, I knew I had to get him to make something with me.”

After playing a two-hour set of both old and new material, Sharp took off his guitar and took the time to meet every audience member, signing autographs and posing for photos. It was all part of his goal to make each show as intimate as possible.

“It’s all about connecting with the audience,” Sharp says. “If they can take something away from it, something more than just the music, then we know we’re doing something special.”

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