As something of a departure from the norm here at The Guide to Notting Hill, I bring you the first ever gig review! And how lucky am I to be able to review as rocking a band as The Jar Family?
This six-piece performed at The Elgin on Thursday night, the truly excellent pub on Ladbroke Grove that hosts regular free gigs in its large – and very expertly set up – back room. The Jar Family performed tracks from their upcoming album Jarmalade (available for download now, or in store on 26th August), and I was lucky enough to catch a sneak preview earlier on in the afternoon!
With a cracker of an opener, it’s immediately apparent that this isn’t a band that holds back. There are no dull numbers, no awkward moments, no vague and shy mumbling into the microphone in between numbers (I’ve seen plenty of big name bands do this…) throughout the set. The first song springs into life as a dramatic intro and is a great way of meeting the band and seeing what they’re all about. For this particular number, they had a set up of three acoustic guitars, multiple percussionists and many of the band taking their turn on vocals. It’s this particular mix of the different band members bringing their own part to each song that seems to be what The Jar Family is all about. Certainly, reading up on their back story, you can see where it stems from – when they first got together, they passed one guitar around, creating songs in a shared way.
The second song of the set was the rather melodic and moving She Was Crying, which kicks off with a bluesy harmonica intro. (It’s an instrument The Jar Family certainly put to good us.) The band are known as being the “inventors of industrial folk”, and it’s with this kind of track that you really get a sense of what this is all about – something rougher around the edges than you might normally encounter. At times some of their sound – and the mixture of their apparent influences – is surprising, with elements of modern 90s/2000s Britpop back through to 1970s American blues-rock bands. A song later in the set, Tell Me, Baby is full of 60s-ness, sounding rather Beatles-esque. There’s obviously also plenty of folk undertones, which are far more convincing than any other big name recent “folk” band that you might think of.
One of their main tracks, Machine (which has been featured on the BBC’s Formula 1 coverage) rapidly gets cranked out – and cranked is certainly a more than appropriate word for this rock gem. It’s also one of the songs were you can really hear the power The Jar Family have vocally.
Throughout their entire set, the Jar Family keep the tempo pace flowing nicely, with plenty of chat in between songs and amusing little anecdotes. Their name actually comes from the jar that they used to pass around at gigs in their early days, with most of the contents of which ending up with the band member that was most in need at that time. It’s this kind of tight-knit closeness that you can still see amongst them today that really benefits them as a live band. There are no loose moments, no awkward parts to the gig…it’s absolutely no surprise that they’ve received so many accolades for their live performances. And it’s no surprise that the audience on the day heartily appreciated the performance, quickly demanding an encore which The Jar Family jumped into with full force.
Check out The Jar Family on their YouTube channel where, as well as videos for some of the most recent songs, you can also see videos of live and studio sessions. Do also see out their website for news of their upcoming gigs, and download links to their new album which is out now!