Review: John Kmetz live at at The Vine

Music Review: John Kmetz
By:Christopher John FeterowskiCover (front)

The clouds rolled in and the deluge came. Soggy college kids, thirsty nine-to-fivers, and disappointed tourists splash and crash through the puddles to find shelter in one of the crowded bars that dot the Plymouth waterfront. I am sitting in my car smoking a cigarette before venturing out into the downpour.

I know there is a quiet wine bar, void of music over 85 decibels, just a block from where I parked. With my mind made and determined to wash away the dust collected during a weather-imposed house arrest, I venture out into the night.

A host is setting up a small PA system and greeting each person that wanders in. I am one of three others, including the bartender, sitting and waiting for the open mic night to start. The rain has kept the light drinkers, hipster music snobs, and for the most part, amateur musicians, away. The sign up board has a few names and I nurse my wine through some pretty decent songwriters playing mostly originals and a few of the same old covers.

John Kmetz is one of the last names, written in big curly letters with a blue white board marker. He had been quietly sipping a beer at the bar before the host had introduced him. I had mistakenly taken him for a barfly. He approaches the corner of the bar that had been sectioned off with a few tables, quietly retrieves a beautiful Taylor acoustic/electric from it’s case and places his imported beer beside the stool that he will be performing from. John introduces himself in a soft and slightly nervous voice and begins.

Chords and arpeggios blend in beautiful fusion of jazz and folk, sweeping and swirling around the small bar. John’s voice has a smoky grit that is just contrasting enough to stand above the fluid and incredibly technical chord progressions he flawlessly exorcises from his guitar. He plays mostly originals and a jazz rendition of “Pure Imagination” from the Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory soundtrack during his extended set. He smiles to himself while looking down at the fret board as if he is having some esoteric conversation or sharing a private joke with a madman. Watching him play, it makes me believe he is holding himself back in some way. But as each song progresses he lets the dialogue evolve, become louder, almost frantic. Part of me wants him to let go, let the madman or the monster. John’s calm demeanor during the whole show is astounding and I clap almost too loud after each piece.

John ends the set with an original called “Moon Shining” a pretty straightforward folk tune but it is one that has an almost ghostly quality to it and demands the listeners attention; like hearing some alternate universe’s reimagining of The Beatles “Blackbird”. Kmetz paints a picture with his uncomplicated lyrics drawing the few spectators’ left in the bar into visions of picturesque and resigned loneliness. Rather than extending himself to the crowd, John seemingly opens a door and allows his listeners in, like a painter opening his once private studio.

Kmetz thanks the crowd and strolls back to the bar to finish his imported beer. He casually takes praise and returns a thank you and handshake to everyone that approaches, no matter how red their teeth are. I watch in amazement while Kmetz, rather than walking out like some of the other pseudo rock stars that graced the floor that night, watches the set of the last performer.

John Kmetz is a true professional and absolutely astounding musician. Those few songs I sat and listened to seemed, to me, to be written for that night only, never to be performed again. Outside the rain continued to fall and the drunken college kids, streaming out of the trendy bars in a seemingly endless line, ran through the puddles it made, screaming at each other over irreversible hearing loss. I strolled back to my car and started the engine feeling like I had experienced something those hipsters should have.

For more info on John: or search John kmetz on Facebook!

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