Matthew Sweet with Olivia and the Mates at The Birchmere by Marlene Hall

Last night, Matthew Sweet rocked the house with his “sweet” music. It brought me back to the 1990s. I could definitely hear the influence of REM in his music. Matthew Sweet is on a 9-stop tour this go-around in the United States.

Olivia and the Mates. Photo by Khamp Sykhammountry.
Olivia and the Mates. Photo by Khamp Sykhammountry.

Before Sweet took the stage, they had an opening act named Olivia and the Mates. It is a tri-set of musicians with a drummer, bassists and lead singer/ guitarist, Olivia Mancini, who is from the DC area. Mancini has a strong voice and joked with the audience. One of her cool songs was “Singing the Chorus” about driving 55 mph up Connecticut Avenue. Their music is indie/alternative rock. I enjoyed watching the bassist rock out during songs as well. They put on a great show and I highly recommend checking them out in the near future.

And then Matthew Sweet came out. The stage was simple with lights supporting the show with lead guitarist, Dennis Taylor to the right of Sweet and bassist, Paul Chastain, to the left of Sweet and drummer Rick Menck, right behind Sweet. Chastain and Menck are also part of the band Velvet Crush, originally from Rhode Island, who reached critical acclaim in the indie world in the 1990s. The band was tight and seemed to be a laid back group. There was no flashy get-up and no fancy graphics, with simple but effective lighting. A set of guitars were next to Taylor who would change guitars between sets and tune them himself. There were no stage hands, just the band, their instruments, and the music.

Sweet was wearing an Apple logo black t-shirt and had a green guitar with him all night. His voice sounded great, just as he did when he was starting out. He didn’t do a lot of talking between songs, letting his music speak for itself.

The crowd was enthusiastic and completely into the music. Sweet’s music is about love, either finding it or losing it. The most beautiful thing about Sweet’s music is the variety of harmonies. When the rhythm guitarist and bassist sang with Sweet, it was simply gorgeous. After one beautiful song, “Evangeline,” the crowd applauded mid-song. It reminded of the exciting harmonies of The Mamas and the Papas.

Matthew Sweet.
Matthew Sweet.

When I interviewed Sweet, he talked about human emotion being the key to his songs: “I love having human feelings, certain feelings with strong emotions. I need to be alone when I write. I write about feelings about being alive.” And his songs were filled with so many different emotions at The Birchmere, especially “You Don’t Love Me,” “We’re the Same,” “I’ve Been Waiting,” and his big hit “Girlfriend,” which the audience applauded wildly.


Here is Matthew Sweet’s Birchere Set list according to

1. Time Capsule
2. Byrdgirl
3. I Wanted to Tell You
4. Winona
5. Evangeline
6. She Walks the Night
7. Someone to Pull the Trigger
8. We’re the Same
9. You Don’t Love Me
10. The Ugly Truth
11. Divine Intervention
12. I’ve Been Waiting
13. Girlfriend

14. Devil with the Green Eyes
15. Sick of Myself

Running Time: One hour and fifteen minutes, with one intermission.

Matthew Sweet and Olivia and the Mates played one night only on August 23, 2013, at The Birchmere – 3701 Mount Vernon Avenue, in Alexandria, VA. For future performances, check their calendar of events.

Interview With Musician Matthew Sweet by Marlene Hall.
Olivia Mancini’s website.
Matthew Sweet’s website.

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Marlene Hall
Marlene Hall grew up an army brat and has lived all over the world and in Washington, DC where she was constantly exposed to theater and music. Marlene graduated from the University of Virginia where she wrote for the Cavalier Daily interviewing musicians. Commissioned as an Air Force officer, she served 8 years. She now works as a realtor with eXp Realty. In addition, Marlene dabbles in improvisational comedy and has taken classes at the famed iO Theater in Chicago and the DC Improv. She is very active in the DC charity and social scene and contributes her time to veterans’ organizations Team Rubicon and Team Red, White, and Blue. She also was a supernumerary in the Washington National Opera’s Carmen with opera singer Denyce Graves. She loves the music and theater scene in DC and goes to as many concerts and shows as possible.


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