When I find that I'll be seeing a new artist for the first time, I do my due diligence and see what I can find about them online. Check their social media, look for anything salacious or outrageous. Check their YouTube and listen to their music to get familiar with what I'm about to experience so that I have a general understanding of where they're coming from. It was business as usual as I set to the web to learn just who and what PJ Hopper was all about. I fell deep into his YouTube channel watching video after video and was swept off my feet by the earnestness he is able to encapsulate in a 3 and a half minute song. It's pretty common knowledge that the art a musician puts out into the world is a reflection of their experiences and their life in general and with what PJ has released you immediately know him. You hear honesty and a life that's been lived in his lyrics, in his vocals and even the way he strums his guitar. He's got nothing to prove and he's not trying to be someone he's not. He's just PJ and you can take him or not. He's got this soul that is kind and a smile that happens easily - especially when he's talking about how important his music is and what it means to him to be able to share it with people.
So imagine how much more I was moved when I learned that his live performance was so much more than what I'd seen in recorded performances. Generally, it's the other way around. You hear a recording and fall in love and the live version doesn't live up to your expectations but this was totally the opposite. He has a stage presence that is massive but contained. He takes up the whole space and brings you into the world he's fabricating for the time you've got him. I had the opportunity to hang out with PJ before the set and he was a bundle of nerves that dissipated as soon as he was behind the microphone. This man comes to life as a storyteller when he steps on stage and it was amazing to watch the subtle transformation he underwent as his nerves fell away. PJ was in Nashville for the Bingham Cup, an international gay rugby tournament where he was not only one of the featured performers but also as a member of the Kings Cross Steelers Rugby Club (playing in his last tournament before retiring) and he was able to take a crowd of rowdy rugby players in a bar and hold their attention for his whole set.
The venue wasn't built for fantastic acoustic performances as the sound system was overwrought by years of punishing EDM but he easily overcame any audio inconsistencies with just a stellar showing. He did several of his own tracks, "Jesus Doesn't Play Rugby", "Cracks", "#youjustlostthegame" as well as absolutely destroying covers of "Jolene", "Hello", and "Hit Me Baby (One More Time)". I wanted more of his music. I wanted more of his experiences and his stories and I can't wait to get to know more about him and his life through his music. What I want to do is buy his music. I want to throw money at him because he's much more than a mere pub performer. He's channeling greatness in his music and you feel it when he's singing. I hope someone out there hears him and sees what I know is there and gives him the opportunity to make records because it would be amazing to see him do amazing things with his music.
It's been my distinct and utter pleasure getting to write about this man. I'm one of the lucky ones. I've gotten to see him live and I can honestly say that it's an experience I'm damn glad to have had. His song, "Cracks" is easily going to be one of my favorite songs ever and being able to have seen him do it live makes it that much more poignant of a song.
PS. Go watch is 6 year old video cover of "In For the Kill" by La Roux and let the be amazed. version is NUTS. The amount of emotion he's able to pull from that song (which is already an amazing track to begin with) is off the chart. This is where he excels. When it's just him, his conviction and a guitar.
PJ on the Web