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The first time I saw Matthew Hemerlein perform, I thought he had some major nervous tics. As he chatted with the audience, his hands ranged over his violin, thumping on the fingerboard, plucking strings on the wrong side of the bridge. But as Hemerlein launched into his performance, I realized he was recording the entire time. He used a foot-pedal-powered loop station to mix those thumps and plucks into a polyrhythmic background track—-all while I was settling into my seat.
This casual display of musical dexterity is typical of Hemerlein, a one-man indie-rock band thanks to his loop station, laconic voice, and virtuostic playing on an assortment of string instruments. While not always challenging, Hemerlein’s music is often gorgeous—-melancholy arpeggios overlaid with plaintive melodies and witty lyrics.
He’s also not stingy with his talents—-Hemerlein
performs the third Friday of every month at SOVA wine bar the last Thursday of every month at the Gibson Guitar Artist Showroom in Chinatown and is a frequent presence at BYT events. Tonight, however, is special: At 9 p.m., at the U Street Music Hall, Hemerlein will be releasing his second album and playing all nine songs from it. (It’s also his birthday.)
“I chose to have nine songs because I’m releasing the album on my 27th birthday, and I’m obsessed with certain numbers,” he says. “Nine times three is 27, so it made sense in my own little mind.”
On the album, Hemerlein plays all the parts on every song with the exception of some samples and drums, but tonight he’ll be accompanied by cellist Katie Chambers, beatboxer Christylez Bacon, bassist Dennis Turner, pianist Jeremy Teter, drummer Jon Laine, violinist Matvei Sigalov and DJ Chris Nitti. Tickets are $10 and proceeds go to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.