On Sundays, The EARL does something called "Dunch", which is "the meal between dinner and lunch". It's kind of like brunch, only coming from the other direction. They serve breakfast food, which The EARL actually does rather well. I think i have eaten most everything on the dunch menu, and i have not been disappointed at all. They also serve coffee, bloody marys, and mimosas, and they have "hangover friendly music". To me, that spells ambient, but usually what they have is acoustic sets from local acts.
Except for this Sunday, when the music selection was something approaching ambient. Jupiter Watts are a local pop act, but they also like to play around with their music. Twice before i have seen them perform their regular songs slowed down and quieter. Since then, they have experimented with writing music that is designed to be performed that way, and so far this year they have posted several worthy examples on their blog. With this in mind, i was very curious to see their Dunch set.
Jupiter Watts need many guitars to perform in the afternoon.
Things got to a late start today, and by that i mean the band did not start performing until 1:38, while things are theoretically supposed to start at 1. I guess i can't really complain this once. It's not like the EARL's lateness time fugue was going to keep me up late on this day.
So at 1:40 Jupiter Watts started playing. The sound was light, full of brushed drums, light but heavily effected guitars, and lots of keys. Bassist Jared Walsh and keyboardist Clay Fowler benefited most from this stripped down sound. When Jupiter Watts "rock out", the bass is there, but never all that clear under the thundering drums and screaming guitars. The keyboard is quite often lost in the sonic mess during a rock show. But today, both Walsh and Fowler shined. The keys really added a lot to the sound, and Walsh's bass lines were clear, crisp, and very funky. Who knew that he was laying down the funk underneath the shoegazery guitars of Ramon Wals and James Trigg? I certainly didn't, but today i really liked what i was hearing.
They played a slow version of Lessons Learned, which dragged the song out to 6 minutes or so and sounded great. Wals played a slide guitar here, the long notes almost droning next to Trigg's higher pitched strummed guitar and Walsh's loping bassline. Very nice.
Ramon Wals in vocals.
Unfortunately i am terrible with song titles, but i know that they played a few other established tunes, although re-worked for this format. Then they played a few songs that neither i nor Tracers was familiar with. These were slow, not quite slowcore slow, but each bore a nice, mellow tempo. I was thoroughly enjoying the day: nice light music, a decent cup of coffee, some friends to chat with, and a lovely warm spring day with the front windows of The EARL open. Outside, however, someone's dog was unconvinced, and kept barking loudly at the music. Everyone is critic, it seems, even the canines...
They played a slow version of Strange Things Happen, which featured Wals playing a lovely overdriven lead bit, almost a solo except that all 5 of the remaining band members were still playing. It came across very well, even through the dog barking. They ended their first set with an instrumental, finishing just 50 minutes after they had started.
The band announced that they were going to eat some dunch, then come back and play again, so i decided to stick around. It was a really nice day to be sitting at The EARL reading through the freebie local magazines (look - the April Stomp and Stammer is out early!), and generally hanging out.
After an hour of tasty food, Jupiter Watts re-took the stage. And by "stage" i mean, the front corenr of the bar where they had set up their gear. This set started with a slow version of Tracer's favorite, Nothing At All. Trigg's guitar part, slowed down here, came across as bluesy. The keys were low and mournful, almost like a trumpet playing underneath the rest of the instruments, although still plainly heard. Simply wonderful.
Ramon Wals on acoustic guitar, and James Trigg on electrig guitar.
The second set lasted another 50 minutes, and here Jupiter Watts continued playing with their sound by changing instruments and generally mixing it up. It struck me that here, they are pretending to be a post-rock band, and they succeed in pulling it off. The only casuality in this performance was not one of skill, but one caused by the improvised sound system. That is, the vocals were almost lost in the mix. The words were never as clear as they could be. That could easily be corrected, but to be honest i didn't mind it so much.
They played Bikini Atoll with both Walsh and Fowler on keys, creating a really spaced out sound. They played Aglow as an achingly slow guitar jam. This came across amazingly well, and was the highlight of a very good set. In fact, i have now decided that i prefer this song to be played slowly like this, instead of its normal rocker pace. Keep that in mind, Jupiter Watts!
They ended with Out of Mind, featuring occasional member Matty on added guitar, and Clay Fowler on a long sax bit. Sersiously -- he was playing the sax so hard, i was worried he was going to pass out from lack of oxygen! This song was played a little faster than most today, so that it came across as very upbeat. In fact, that was a perfect way to end a set.
Drummer Kevin Wallace looks bored while being underutilized as a "tambourinist". he is probably
thinking "couldn't someone's girlfriend or spouse play this, while i rock out on the drums?"
And so, after over three hours sitting in The EARL, and two hours of great music, i headed off. I still had my whole evening ahead of me. Man, i love day shows like this!
If you are into post-rock or slowcore, of just like seeing talented musicians jam out and have fun, you should try to catch Jupiter Watts in one of their slow moments. Very worthwhile.