Even with a couple of Billboard Alternative chart-toppers, a history of playing prominent festivals, more than three million monthly listeners on Spotify and a new album on the horizon, Matt Maeson’s success hasn’t steered him away from small venues.
Armed with only his acoustic guitar, the Virginia-native singer commenced a small-scale tour of independent venues July 7. Maeson, known for his hit song “Hallucinogenics,” will play six shows across Florida, including a stop at the High Dive Thursday.
The laid-back, isolated string of shows contrast Maeson’s typical show atmosphere, which will be seen in his 26-show fall tour for his new album, “Never Had To Leave,” backed by a full band and large crowds.
“I came to the realization of like, ‘Dude I don’t have to sit here and plan out this extravagant tour,’” Maeson said. “I can just take my acoustic guitar, hop in my car and drive to venues.”
Maeson’s appearance at the High Dive coincides with Independent Venue Week, a national campaign highlighting the importance of small venues to local communities. This year’s celebration will occur from July 11-17.
Independent venues have more character than corporate venues, Maeson said. Even in his daily life, the choice between pretentious and homely is easy.
“I’d much rather go to some shitty dive bar than go to a Dave & Buster’s,” Maeson said.
The High Dive, which is commemorating its 11-year anniversary in July, is a registered Independent Venue Week participant.
Local venues should be celebrated as a hub for new talent and a sanctuary for fans to get close to artists who might one day play stadiums, according to the Independent Venue Week’s website.
Local venues’ close quarters help Maeson and his fans feel more present during performances, he said. In a small crowd, people remain more attentive to Maeson’s lyric-driven songs.
“As soon as you get to a thousand people, that’s a big crowd, and it’s a lot harder to keep everybody’s attention in one place,” Maeson said.
Small shows also give artists more creative freedom, he said. Major tours with complicated production and thousands of attentive eyes keep artists on a rehearsed schedule. The rigidity can create a stressful environment, Maeson said.
Alone on a modest stage, Maeson can control his performance and even change his setlist on a whim. It’s one of the reasons the singer doesn’t mind packing his large-scale success into a small venue.
During Independent Venue Week, Maeson is looking forward to the culture each Florida venue cultivates, including the High Dive. Doors open at 8 p.m. Thursday and tickets are available for purchase on the venue’s website.
“If you like an experience where you’re able to enjoy the music but also be able to feel connected and look at yourself, it’s a perfect show for you,” Maeson said.
Averi Kremposky is a senior journalism major at the University of Florida. When she’s not covering music, art and culture beats for The Avenue, you can find her going to a concert, finishing another book in one sitting or submitting to the latest Taylor Swift album theory.