Big Hit Media / Aberdeen

In his new one-man show, Matt Sheehy—the singer/songwriter who leads the indie rock project Lost Lander—spares his audience many of the clichéd moves we’ve come to expect from that medium. And Aberdeen certainly could have tumbled down that path.

The 80-minute performance, which Sheehy is staging at Disjecta, is inspired by a recent, fraught period in Sheehy’s life: He was processing the death of his mother and a relationship impasse between him and a romantic partner. To get some clarity and some money, he took a job as a forester in Aberdeen, a town in southwestern Washington. There he lived deep in the woods, on the top floor of a hastily built house, and above a charmingly troubled couple.

This could have been the start of a suite of navel-gazing storytelling songs about finding peace with his mom’s passing and learning some important lessons among the trees. Thankfully, Sheehy goes in a much different direction, mixing in some fish-out-of-water comedy turns and unexpected science fiction twists.


This could have been the start of a suite of navel-gazing storytelling songs about finding peace with his mom’s passing and learning some important lessons among the trees. Thankfully, Sheehy goes in a much different direction, mixing in some fish-out-of-water comedy turns and unexpected science fiction twists.


Welcome as those elements are, they trip Sheehy up as his show approaches the finish line. I was already having a hard time finding much of a reason to care about the fate of his downstairs neighbors—a logger with missing fingers and her ne’er-do-well boyfriend—before Sheehy started focusing on the boyfriend’s attempts at contacting an alternate dimension. Sheehy’s decision to awkwardly steer into surreality only pulled me out of the narrative even more.

The comedic aspects of Aberdeen also land clumsily. Maybe it was due to the superior tone the audience’s laughter, but the humor felt like it was punching down at the expense of a couple living on the margins of society.

Sheehy seemed to understand his complicity: His voyeuristic interest in their lives provided fodder for his new songs. What was missing was an appreciation of the fact that Sheehy had an out. He had a comfortable middle-class life waiting for him back in Portland. His neighbors did not. All that in mind, it might have been hard to bring empathy to Aberdeen’s fantastical elements. Sheehy’s authorial remove—and the interjection of his pleasant, starry-eyed pop tunes—are necessary to move the story along and land it on its heartfelt, inevitable conclusion.

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