Last night I caught a performance by London-based genre-dismantlers Jockstrap at The Bullingdon, on Oxford’s Cowley Rd. It’s a 400-capacity venue that I’ve been to for a few shows, but this was the first time I’ve seen it packed. The band’s current (sold out) tour, in support of debut album I Love You Jennifer B (2022), is also taking them as far afield as Australia & Japan — a further sign that their frenetic, adventurous sound has struck a nerve.
The set list was probably about as balanced as Jockstrap can get, pulling from both the softer side of their oeuvre — songs like the pretty & sad ‘Glasgow’, which Georgia Ellery sings and strums largely solo1 — to the down-right unstable (see eg. ‘Robert’). Most tracks, however, are some mix of styles: the band shifting restlessly between vibes and valences (ie. the danceable middle third of single ‘Concrete Over Water’, a song that is otherwise something approaching a ballad).
One aspect of the sequencing that I really enjoyed, is the way in which following ‘Concrete Over Water’ (2022) with ‘The City’ (2020) makes the earlier track read as a neat coda to the more recent one.
‘Angst’ is a three-minute song on the album that sounds as though it was recorded as a four-minute song, and then had its last quarter compressed into the track’s final ~25 seconds. The effect is similar to that of scrubbing through those final moments of audio, and I would have guessed that it would be achieved live by employing a sample. It was a delight to see Ellery sing it, whilst Taylor Skye pitch-shifted her vocal.
The whole performance was admirably tight, and you could tell the spell was working: the crowd unfailingly remained silent throughout the quieter moments, and exploded into motion on the high-energy songs. Personal favourite ‘Debra’ felt like it landed particularly well.
Finally, what a joy it must be to know you’ve got a bona fide banger like ‘50/50’ in your back pocket to drop as a closer. Even though the (no budget) official video could have been shot at last night’s show, it only goes some way to depicting how much harder the song hits in person.
Re-listening to I Love You Jennifer B ahead of the show (and again this morning) I’m experiencing a little regret that I didn’t find a spot for it on my end of year top 20. It was one of a few records that made a shortlist, but not the final cut. It’s testament to Jockstrap that the live show injects even more vitality to these already super-vibrant songs, and has me second guessing myself.
she is also the violinist in the Mercury Prize-nominated band Black Country, New Road, and brought out the violin a couple of times during the set, to add yet another flavour to the mix ↩︎