Jupiter Watts are, arguably, my favorite local act at this point. Sadly, they are not that prolific, releasing just a bare trickle of new tunes on their blog, and playing out only a few times a year. The chance to see them is what dragged me out on this cold, winter evening.
Ramon Wals and James Trigg.
They went on at a little after 10 PM, the first band this evening. They are still a stripped-down four-piece act, with Ramon Wals, James Trigg, and Jared Welsh all switching out drumming duty. Clay Fowler just played keyboards on this evening. I guess he got lucky and was relieved from drumming duty.
Clay Fowler -- not a drummer.
Jupiter Watts make a mellow, slow sort of music. There are shades of Low (appropriate, considering who they were opening for), Spiritualized, and Sonic Youth in their set, which was very typical of their current sound.
James Trigg rocks the melodica.
They played six tunes tonight, in the span of fifty minutes, which should tell you something. These are songs that unfold slowly, with many layers of sound building off of each other. And the sound was excellent tonight, courtesy of EARL soundman Curt Wells.
Ramon Wals on vocal duty.
The real standout tune tonight was Break the Curse, a new song that they have been playing for awhile, and for which a couple of demo versions have been posted on their blog. This tune starts off modestly enough, with James Trigg singing and playing guitar while Ramon Wals keeps a minimal drum beat.
Ramon Wals's drumming breaks the curse...
It seems to progress as you would expect, but when the bridge hits the song erupts in a long, slow jam. Wals really hits the drum kit, and Welsh lays down a powerful bass riff, while Fowler's keys and Trigg's guitar build off of each other in echoing layers.
Rare "mostly in focus photo" of Jared Welsh, who never stands still long enough to be photographed.
Really impressive. I cannot wait for the actual record, which they told me should be available this summer! Look for a review to come…
James Trigg takes "shaky egg duty" very seriously.
They played for 50 minutes, and it was about as perfect of a set as i can think of. Jupiter Watts may not play out often, but they do put on excellent sets when they do. I highly urge you to seek out this band then next time they play.
Trigg on drums.
Had the night ended there, i would have been perfectly content. However, Jupiter Watts were opening for Retribution Gospel Choir, and i wanted to stick around and see what they were like. All i knew about the band going in was that it featured Alan Sparhawk (of Low) on vocals and guitar, that Pitchfork had liked their most recent album, and that this band was more "rock" than Low.
They started off very promisingly, with bassist Steve Garrington (who was also apparently in Low, towards the end of that band) laying down a deep dub bass riff, which was then picked up by drummer Eric Pollard. They jammed for a few minutes, then Sparhawk joined them with echoed guitar and sang a few lines of some song that i vaguely recognized as being something from the Bob Marley songbook. Nice.
Garrington in rock star bassist action.
However, they stopped that jam short and tore into some blues rock, Sparhawk wailing like a young Mick Jagger and thwaping at his guitar.
Sparhawk in guitar thwapping action.
I stayed for twenty minutes or so of this, enough to seem they perform about four songs that, while not awful, really didn’t do anything for me. They were sort of a more polished version of Thee Crucials, and to be honest i am not sure if "polished" is a word that goes well with this style of music.
Pollard, the drummer.
Still, they had fans there who were singing along and seemed to know all the words, so that is something. I also think that i might have enjoyed this set more if i were not in that special mental space that a good, mellow space rock set will put me in. Ironically, Jupiter Watts now should have opened for Low about 8 years ago, while Retribution Gospel Choir would have gone better with Jupiter Watts in 2005. I guess the two bands are just on different schedules.