Although forming just three years ago, Australian outfit Jagwar Ma have already made considerable waves on our shores, thanks to their impeccable debut LP of 2013, 'Howlin''. Appearing at a time when the likes of Tame Impala were re-igniting psychedelia as a 'thing', the band were able to pack out tents at Glastonbury and sell out most of their recent tour. Tonight (June 12th) sees them embrace the latest technology and perform as part of the Lumia Live Sessions in Bristol's Old Crown Courts.
It's an early show and entering into a dark, brick-enclosed room after you've been swigging tinnies in the park is a pretty surreal experience. Thankfully, the Nokia team makes us feel at home. The main stage area is a beautiful example of Bristol's early architecture, with gorgeous high ceilings and mahogany features that are abruptly juxtaposed with Jagwar Ma's extensive, electronic set-up and huge Lumia Live floor lamp.
As the humid room swells to capacity, Jagwar Ma are quick to get things going. With frontman Gabriel Winterfield jokingly stating "court is now in session," the band launches into 'Uncertainty' and 'Man I Need', stiring the crowd into arms-in-the-air disco-dancing.
Despite the band simply classifying their fare as 'electronic music', their set-up and incredibly tight instrumentation proves they're much more than that. Gabriel's vocals are as on-point as ever, with his falsetto wails filling the entire room while bassist Jack Freeman provides an organic swell to Jono Ma's eclectic beats. There's not a blip in earshot, as the band effortlessly works through their set with barely a break.
Gabriel evokes a confidence beyond his young 24 years, as each crowd member hangs on his every word. He jokes that Bristol seems to want them deported back to Australia, after playing on boat venue the Thekla and now encased in a court house. This air of playfulness makes Jagwar Ma not only one of the most tightly put-together groups, but one that is a genuine joy to watch both during their songs and in between.
The crescendo of the band's set makes the crowd go wild. Placing his guitar on the floor, Gabriel joins the crowd in their eruption and turns this court house into a party that any 'normal' show would find difficult to match.
As the loop pedals bring proceedings to a close, the band is quick to sign records and pose for photos as soon as the crowd descends upon them. As one of the most exciting acts of last year, 2014 could well be even better for this trio if today is anything to go by.
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Words: Sammy Maine
Photo Credit: Matt Arney