Matt Weis: An Elegantly Woven Combination of Influences and Inspirations
Musician mu·si·cian /myo͞oˈziSHən/ noun: a person who plays a musical instrument, especially as a profession, or is musically talented. (See also Matt Weis)
How do I even begin to describe the uniqueness of Tampa Bay’s Matt Weis? How about we start with that last name. Pretend the words “white” and “rice” had a baby named Wice, but that looked weird, so they spelled it Weis. And with that, this piece is taking off!
You may have seen Matt play before and not even know it. That’s because he is a creator of all sounds, master of all influences. He’s a versatile musician who can hit the high pitches of Prince, then move on over to the vibrational tones of Trey Anastasio. The guy can do it all. He’s known around town for not only his cover band, Antelope, but for his original band, Boxcar Hollow, as well. Both have a jam band feel, for very different reasons. We’ll come back to that in a minute, though – let’s talk about some roots first!
Matt Weis was born a wiggly little thing four decades ago, way far away in Chicago, Illinois. Legend has it that he started making music at the ripe young age of ten. It’s also been said he played the tuba in his elementary and middle schools’ marching bands. I’ve even heard that it’s because of his father’s fondness for folk music that Matt transitioned to guitar at the age of twelve. Okay, okay, so maybe that’s not really folklore as much as it’s all fact. Sure did sound like a good campfire story in the making though, huh?
Anyway, Matt followed his family from the Windy City to the crystal-clear waters of Sarasota in his early thirties. Not wanting his sister to be alone in Tampa and to escape the harsh Chicago winters, he moved near her in 2011. Through Rock Brothers Brewery, Tony Casora and Kevin Lilly became his guides to connecting with venues and musicians in town. Playing early on in St. Pete with Forrest Hoffar helped cement his place in what we cool kids refer to as “the local music scene.” He eventually met up with Meesta Juanjamon and discovered the world of Hometeam. Note to self: both of those two deserve their own stories in the future!
What you’ll hear at a Matt Weis show is an elegantly woven combination of early influences (such as Blackbird and Led Zeppelin) and today’s inspirations (like Trey Anastasio, Michael Kang, Tim Reynolds, and Jerry Garcia). The finesse that allows him to hit the high notes of “Kiss” is equal to the grit that clamps down into Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City.” His previous approach to folk music energetically morphed into a reggae vibe that bloomed into what has become Matt’s exclusive sound. You might not have known he was playing at that bar you just walked into, but the minute you hear the music wafting through the air, you’ll recognize it’s him. The notes he blends and sends out float into your soul the same way the smell of Chicago pizza permeates into your olfactory nerves! It just gets in there and sets up a permanent sensation all unto its own.
Not too long after Matt arrived in the area, he paired up with fellow Chicago native Jack Peiroth as original members of Boxcar Hollow. Recently nominated and previous winner of the Best of the Bay in the aptly applied Roots/Americana category, Boxcar Hollow has that “find yourself on a lonesome train ride” feel to it. If you close your eyes, you can almost imagine that you’ve rolled back into the sounds of yesteryear. It’s a musical glimpse of a time when musicians gathered around and harnessed their creations while sitting on front porches. The blend of real-life experience and far-off daydreams translates gracefully into sui generis harmony. (Don’t worry, I had to look up “sui generis” too! Means “unique.”) Other members of Boxcar Hollow have shifted and flowed to include such musicians as Chris Barbosa on the violin and Brad Elliott on drums. You’ll also find Fil Pate joining in on the mandolin, not only with Boxcar but also on the regular as part of a pleasure-generating musical duo.
And then there’s Matt’s other locally famous band, Antelope, a tribute band covering all things Phish. Juanjamon on keys, Michael Garrie on drums, and Trevor McDannel on the bass come together with Matt on vocals and guitar to offer one of Florida’s premier tribute bands. Coming from someone who isn’t that big of a Phish fan (don’t judge!), I can say with honesty that these fellows create absolute magic. You might’ve planned on forcing your way through one or two songs, but you’ll end up shaking your head in disbelief as the bar is closing for the night. “How did they make me lose myself in place and time like that?” you’ll ask yourself in awe. Yeah, buddy, I get it. You just got served a healthy platter of “they’ll take you there.”
So whatever melodic style you want, Matt Weis can deliver. Hear him play with the setting of the sun when he performs in the Weis-Pate duo every other Sunday and Tuesday at Caddy’s on the Beach. A Boxcar Hollow show is coming up on August 23 at Ruby’s Elixir in St. Petersburg. He’s got a series of shows with Antelope starting October 4 at Skipper’s Smokehouse in Tampa. He jams out as a solo performer on the regular, Wednesday nights at Ricky T’s. He’s also part of a collaboration on Thursday nights at Mandarin Hide. There is literally no reason for you to miss out! But wear comfortable shoes, because you’re going to be there all night long.