Elvis Depressedly Steals the Show at Crescent Ballroom
by Claudia Yaw
Despite it being a Tuesday night, the Crescent Ballroom in downtown Phoenix was alive, packed in the front restaurant and the back, where a crowd was forming excitedly. The show, featuring Virginia Beach’s band Turnover, as well as openers Emma Ruth Rundle and Elvis Depressedly, was sold out. The venue was full of excited young couples, drinking PBR and snogging. Unbeknownst to the crowd of young lovers, the night would take a turn for the weird—and the real.
The set was opened by LA artist Emma Ruth Rundle, a musician as well as visual artist, who studied music for years and took classes for some time at CalArts. Both her musical and visual style came through quite clearly in her atmospheric style and airy lyrics. “I’m Emma…” she paused, looking distant. “I’m going to play some music for you all.” These somewhat forced and arguably self-indulgent intros given by Emma definitely came off as that of an art student. It seemed as though Emma was diligently attempting to maintain her mysterious aura. While off-putting at first, all was forgiven by the time she had gotten through a few songs. Her vocals proved powerfully eerie and worthy of a swaying audience. Rundle’s songs were heavy, but didn’t weigh down the room–the drama in her voice and the soft ghostly music behind her, performed by musicians never introduced to the audience, was an indulgent way to begin the show.
Emma’s music created the more solemn and euphoric feel of the show, but whatever angst or darkness presented paled in comparison to Elvis Depressedly, the band that took the stage right after. Frontman Mathew Lee Cothran, with long and messy dark hair, sporting a wide-brimmed hat and a worn out tee, joked with the crowd. The self-deprecation and other dark humor that Mat used to connect with the audience seemed to reflect the essence of what Elvis Depressedly is–a band dealing with darkness through humor and art. During his soundcheck, Mat began inaudibly yelling into the mic. He apologized, deeming himself “the Sheriff of killing the mood,” a title that got some laughs from the crowd. Mat came off as a lovably bizarre character, full of cute one-liners. “See? Music is stupid, that’s why idiots do it,” he remarked during a technical difficulty. Mat led the group in an incredibly soulful and raw set, with songs that were short yet never lacking in emotion. It seemed as though the music coming from the stage was bursting at the seams, as the reserved style held back all of the intense ideas and extreme emotions within each verse. Sure enough, something did burst, and Mathew’s depressed humor transformed into something much darker.
He apologized, deeming himself “the Sheriff of killing the mood,” a title that got some laughs from the crowd.
When Mat vaguely talked about some sort of personal difficulty, lamenting, “My sh*t’s all broken and everything is f*cked up,” one couldn’t help but question if this had to do with his girlfriend and bandmate. Elvis Depressedly is described by almost all streaming platforms, websites, and series as a duo, comprised of Mathew Cothran and his longterm girlfriend, Delaney Mills. Something was obviously off. Then, when the band was halfway through the set, and Delaney had yet to show up. For Elvis Depressedly, it was downhill from there. Later in the set, a guitar malfunctioned, and Mat threw it across the stage. Turning towards the audience, he ominously told the crowd, “You’re the audience that killed Elliott Smith. And now you’re coming for me,” referencing the influential folk singer who killed himself in 2003. Smith’s lyrics were similar to those which Mat writes, speaking on depression, suicide, drugs, and other dark topics. Smith had threatened suicide several times in and out of his music and was never rarely taken seriously by his friends and family.
The artist snapped shortly thereafter–after repeatedly screaming the phrase “it’s not every day you get to see someone die” into the mic, Mat stormed off the stage, knocking equipment down in his wake, and leaving his bandmates behind him, confused and stranded, a concerned audience staring up at them, scared for Mat’s wellbeing and their own.
It seemed as though it would take nothing short of a miracle to recover the concert from such a heartbreaking end to a great set. Somehow, the main act, Turnover, was able to achieve such a feat. The group quickly proved to be more than a soft rock band played at a yuppie dinner party, largely thanks to lead singer Austin Getz. Getz’s ability to connect to the crowd was not unlike the rest of the band, whose cheerful attitude eased the tension of the room. Getz, in particular, proved not only to be a great performer but a genuine human, graciously thanking Elvis Depressedly and Emma Ruth Rundle for making the tour, which is only a third over, such an amazing experience. He described his own struggle with depression and fear earlier in his musical career. With his larger musical following, he seemed to take on a fatherly role, offering sage advice not only to the previous acts but to the young crowd. “You never know what’s around the corner,” Getz reminded the audience. “It’s a big world.”
With his larger musical following, he seemed to take on a fatherly role, offering sagely advice not only to the previous acts, but to the young crowd.
Turnover’s set, showcasing their new album “Good Nature,” offered a sedated vibe to smooth over the venue. Like a snake charmer, the band charmed the crowd until they were swaying back and forth in the glow of romantic melodies. Tuesday night was no doubt an emotional rollercoaster, but Turnover managed to keep the show on the tracks, and dropped everyone, safe and content, at the end of the ride.