Published Nov 29, 2013Australia might not be getting enough credit, but the land down under is producing some seriously inspired music at the moment. Cut Copy and Empire of the Sun are pushing indie pop into a dance-inducing spectacle, while Tame Impala and Pond have reawakened psych-rock from an insipid state.
Sydney's Jagwar Ma straddle the line in that spectrum, and of late have been hailed as descendants of the baggy, E-poppin' Madchester sound that took British club culture by storm in the late 1980s. Noel Gallagher and the NME are quite frank about their love for Jagwar Ma's debut album, Howlin', so it's no wonder the trio have found not only adoration and stardom, but also a new home in the UK.
On their first North American tour and first-ever Canadian show, the band walked out with a pretty modest set up. Frontman Gabriel Winterfield multi-tasked with the mic, guitar and a stand of pedals, Jack Freeman was on bass and as well as the occasional guitar, producer Jono Ma had a table full of gear. They took advantage of the Hoxton's club-friendly sound system, kicking it off with Howlin's lead track "What Love," a track that slowly ascends into a miasma of hypnagogic noise and snapping beats.
With only one album under their belt, the set was limited to 10 of its 11 tracks, but no one was there to hear them dig up B-sides. The three-piece were more than capable of bringing Howlin' to life, instilling verve into massive rhythm-heavy cuts like "Come Save Me" and "The Throw," which closed out the set. Like the mesmerized audience, all three members couldn't stop themselves from moving to the music: Winterfield wiggled like Happy Mondays mascot Bez, but it was Freeman one had to keep an eye on, as he regularly put down his bass at times just to bounce around awkwardly.
For the encore, they teased ending the night on the pensive album closer, "Backwards Berlin," but slipped in the Motown-infused "That Loneliness" to ensure everyone went home on a high. If and when word spreads of Jagwar Ma's ability to light up a room, you can expect it all to get bigger and better from here.