Justin Davis and Sarah Zimmerman, better known as Striking Matches, are a US Country music duo. They first gained exposure by having six of their songs featured on ABC’s Television series Nashville and have had a vast amount of success since. There is no end to their talents – song writing, singing and exceptional guitar skills. Not only have they produced some of the best music I have heard in a while but they are also one of the best live acts I have ever had the pleasure of seeing [and I have been to a lot of gigs] and not just in Country Music.
The first week in March was an exciting one for UK fans of Striking Matches. After being a massive hit to festival goers at Country 2 Country Festival 2014, they announced they would be returning to play the pop up stages at the festival once again. As if their return to C2C wasn’t exciting enough they also announced, via their UK Label, that they would be hosting an Industry Showcase for a very limited amount of people. The label ran a competition for 20 winners so, of course, I entered right away. It’s Striking Matches after all and an opportunity to see them live should never be missed.
I found out I was indeed a winner, after having only to wait one day, and could take a guest. Coach booked, friend picked, I was on my way and very excited. Having been to Industry Showcases before, I had an idea of what to expect. I knew from previous similar events there was a possibility of complimentary food and drink and would be in a very intimate setting.
The hidden studio was near Notting Hill. The building has no Studio sign or any indication of it being one and could easily go unnoticed to a passer by.
My friend and I arrived relatively early but thankfully we were not the first to arrive. After being let in, we all gathered in the reception area before we were taken upstairs. We were eager to be at the front to gain a good spot. I was extremely pleased at our being greeted with the complimentary drinks I was hoping for and happily selected a beer and went to secure my spot.
As the room started to fill up, I saw many familiar faces of media and others whom I had seen at other events. The room was relatively small and a tiny pop stage was located at the back. We managed to get right to the front, but, being so small, it would have been a good view from anywhere.
A representative from the Label appeared on stage and gave a brief introduction to Striking Matches before inviting them to the stage.
Striking Matches, as ever, were very gracious. They thanked everyone for being there, Striking Matches still appear in awe of their success and amazed that anyone showed up. After detailing what they had been doing all day, the jet lag and how happy they were to be back in the UK for the third or fourth time in a year, they began their set.
They started with Trouble is As Trouble does, an often popular choice to start off their set for obvious reasons. The song starts with fantastic and spectacular guitar skills and so much more amazing live than on the studio recorded track which, don’t get me wrong, is also brilliant.
Interacting with the crowd well, Sarah, on a couple of occasions manages to mess up the cables joking and putting it down to Jet Lag.
It may have been a short set but then showcases often are, but the whole night was just unforgettable.
Other songs performed by Striking Matches were:
Make A Liar Out Of Me – an amazing song live with mind blowing guitar skills. Sarah with the guitar slider is something of a genius. If you hadn’t previously been a fan of Striking Matches, you certainly were after that night.
When The Right One Comes Along – probably the most well known of their songs as featured in Nashville and sung by characters Gunnar and Scarlett. A beautiful ballad with stunning vocals by Sarah, you can tell this song means a lot to them. Sarah often refers to this song as being the song that got them on Nashville as it made the producers cry when they heard it. Sarah takes us back to when they played this song at The Borderline venue in London 2014 and how the reception was so great that she cried after. I remember this well.
Missing You Tonight – The first single of their debut album Nothing But The Silence. This song is very different from the usual and I remember being unsure about it the first time I heard it, but the song has grown on me and did not disappoint in the live version, in fact it was better.
Nothing But The Silence – The Title track to their debut album. I am obsessed with this song. Having had it on repeat on my journey to the showcase, I was delighted to hear it live. The vocals are sung in unison by Sarah and Justin. Starting as it does with a simple tone makes this song undeniably beautiful. The live version was just as wonderful and I love how their vocals get more powerful as the song goes on. The song displays great harmonies, particularly Justin’s stunning tone.
Hanging On A Lie – Another song featured in Nashville and sung by the character Juliette Barnes. I love this song live and, as ever, it was brilliant. Everyone seemed to know the words and Sarah expressed her gratitude when the audience joined in.
Their finale was an Elvis Cover – Can’t Help Falling In Love. Striking Matches had performed this song previously as part of BBC Radio 2 Tribute to Elvis which also featured Sam Palladio from Nashville. They explained how hard it was to pick an Elvis song. Justin said how it would be like picking your favourite kid, before trying to explain that he has no kids but can imagine what it might be like and then going on to tell us not to tell the child who isn’t your favourite. Sarah then jumps in saying that you should totally tell the favourite child that they are the favourite, then some awkward laughter, blaming it all on jet lag.
After they had finished, Sarah and Justin immediately ran off stage to give myself and my friend Jamie a big hug and saying how nice it was to see us again. They spoke to us for a good while about returning to the UK, C2C Festival and their gig at Union Chapel which will be this May. They posed for photographs and we moved on as the queue was getting rather long.
Whilst hanging around waiting for our lift, we helped ourselves to more of the complimentary drinks and chatted together. After the queue had died down, we went up again to get some items signed. They were excited that we kept our tickets from their Borderline gig and happily signed them and laughed at the fact my poster was ‘taken’ from The Borderline but saying staff may have just thrown it away anyway.
The showcase was definitely worth the six hour round trip and, no matter how many times you see Striking Matches live, it is impossible to tire of them. I am very excited about seeing them perform again at Union Chapel, London on May 8th and that they would be bringing a full band this time which is even more exciting. However, they do not need a band as they put on one heck of a show on their own and you tend to forget it’s just the two of them with two guitars and, once or twice, an appearance of a Mandolin.
I highly recommend seeing Striking Matches live. You most certainly do not need to be a Country Music Fan as Striking Matches bring something totally unique and mesmerising to their performances.
They still have their debut album to release and I predict a massive rise in their success following that.
Sarah and Justin, you are always welcome in the UK and we all hope you will return on a regular basis.
You can pre order Striking Matches cd here and you get a free signed poster with it
Also, tickets to their UK Tour can be purchased here :