Sounds Local: The Suitcase Junket to release new album Friday

  • The Suitcase Junket, Leverett resident Matt Lorenz’s one-man band, is releasing a new album, “Mean Dog, Trampoline,” on Friday. Lorenz is also performing a Saturday show at the Shea Theater Arts Center. Contributed photo/David Jackson

  • The New Orleans-based Big Sam’s Funky Nation is bringing its danceable brand of “Noladelic PowerFunk” to Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center on April 12. Contributed photo


For the Recorder
Published: 4/3/2019 5:23:43 PM

Friday is a big day for Leverett-based musician Matt Lorenz, also known as The Suitcase Junket.

That’s because Lorenz will release his new album “Mean Dog, Trampoline,” and will head to Cambridge for the third date of an extensive U.S. tour that began earlier this week. He’ll then circle home for a CD release show at the Shea Theater Arts Center, 71 Avenue A in Turners Falls, on Saturday night at 8 p.m.

The Suitcase Junket is a one-man band who sits atop an old suitcase while strumming away on an old guitar he found in a dumpster, while at the same time banging away on his foot-pedal drum. He creates even more sound by utilizing an assortment of recycled items such as a baby shoe hitting a gas can, a cooking pot, a circular saw and a bag of bones for added percussion. All this, and he writes clever, memorable songs, too!

Lorenz has come a long way since he first launched his project back in 2009, playing at local venues like The Rendezvous in Turners Falls and Mocha Maya’s in Shelburne Falls. He has released five recordings, with “Mean Dog, Trampoline” being his second full-length release for Signature Sounds. The Hampshire College graduate has also toured all over the U.S. and Europe, and has opened for acts like Chris Smither, M. Ward, Alabama Shakes and Los Lobos.

It was when Lorenz was opening for Los Lobos at the Back Porch Festival in Northampton three years ago that he connected with the band’s saxophone player Steve Berlin, who produced “Mean Dog, Trampoline.”

This was a new experience for Lorenz, who had always worked alone, recording his albums live in a room, keeping the process as simple as possible. He described “Mean Dog, Trampoline” as more of a piece-by-piece true studio album, and added that learning to let go of some of the control wasn’t always easy.

“It’s been interesting and difficult, but I’ve learned a lot from it,” Lorenz said. “By letting someone else take the reins on certain aspects of the process, we got something that I would never have made on my own.”

Lorenz said what most impressed him about working with Berlin was how good his ears are.

“He’s a really good, active listener, and he really understood the project and the scope of the sound that I was working with,” Lorenz said.

The new 12-track album finds Lorenz getting better with each release. From the folkie vibe of “Dreamless Life,” to the almost psychedelic sound of “New York City,” he expands his sonic palette on this disc.

A song like “Heart of a Dog” with its sludgy guitar and Lorenz’s trademark throat singing, is rooted in old blues that’s always been heard in his music. Some of the other material, however, is more of a musical departure.

There is a catchy, pop-rock feel to some of these tunes that gives them an irresistible radio-friendly quality. For example, “Everything I Like” is a jaunty pop number will have crowds dancing on the grass when The Suitcase Junket plays the Green River Festival this summer.

“High Beams” is another catchy tune about a rocky relationship that even features hand claps and a Joan Jett reference. It’s one of the strongest tracks on a CD that is sure to take Lorenz’s music to an even wider audience.

“One thing about working with Steve is he didn’t come in and try and change too much. He was about working within the strengths of the project,” Lorenz recalled.

If you’re wondering where the album’s odd title comes from, Lorenz discovered the words on some old notes he had written while attending a first time homebuyers workshop.

“It’s like I had just written down words and sketches of imaginary critters,” he said. “I hate seeing things go to waste, even my own scribbling, so it was like ‘Let’s make a tune out of it.’”

He wrote a song called “Notes From a First Time Homebuyers Workshop,” and the phrase appeared there as in the title.

At the time of our conversation, Lorenz was busy readying the new songs for the stage, making some slight adjustments in his setup to capture the sound of the album.

“I don’t like playing them live before they make it on an album,” Lorenz said. “I love the idea of this album release to be the release of a whole new show, as well in terms of what people are going to hear. These next couple of weeks are going to be interesting because anything could happen and that’s always exciting.”

Tickets to the Shea show are $20 and are available at or by calling the Signature Sounds Box Office at 413-341-3317. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.

The Suitcase Junket will also appear at the Green River Festival on Saturday, July 13. For more information, visit

Dance the night away

Are you in the mood to do some dancing Thursday night? Then head to Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center, 289 Main St. in Greenfield, at 7:30 p.m. where two local cover bands will take you back in time with some of the great sounds of the 1970s.

Oakland Stroke, led by established local saxophone players and singers Ted Wirt and Donna Lee DePrille, started out in 2014 as a Tower of Power tribute band. The 12-piece ensemble has since expanded its repertoire to incorporate the music of another California band, Santana.

Oakland Stroke will be joined by The Shadow Twisters, which bills itself as “Franklin County’s top dance attraction” from gigs at Deja Brew Café & Pub in Wendell and the Shutesbury Athletic Club. The group plays classic rock, pop and soul music from the 1960s and ’70s including The Beatles, Carl Perkins, Neil Young and much more.

If you really want to get down and funky, get your tickets now for Big Sam’s Funky Nation. The New Orleans-based band will be bringing its danceable brand of “Noladelic PowerFunk” to Hawks & Reed on Friday, April 12, at 8 p.m. The band, which has performed at past Green River Festivals, plays high-energy music that mixes funk, rock ’n’ roll, hip-hop and jazz with the heavy grooves of New Orleans.

Admission to the Oakland Stroke and The Shadow Twisters show tonight is $5. Tickets for Big Sam’s Funky Nation are $15 in advance and $20 day of show.

Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at

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