I almost decided not to go to this, as the band I was most interested in seeing (the openers) pulled out at the last minute. But then I had a listen to JBM (Jesse Marchant) and was instantly drawn in to his intimate songwriting style and warm, inviting voice. I also liked what I heard of Rogue Wave, though I was previously unfamiliar with them. I figured “what the hell, I’ll make the drive down”. Good call.
I arrived maybe a song or two into Jesse Marchant‘s set, with a small crowd circling the stage. My first reaction was “wow, incredibly brave”. Yes, I know, he’s a musician, a singer-songwriter, and that’s what he does. But to step-up and adjust his schedule to fill in and come play for us, and to perform a deeply personal, solo, (mostly) acoustic guitar set in what’s primarily a “Rock Club”, for, let’s face it, a Boston University “first time away from home, still developing alcohol tolerance” crowd… well, it fills me with an admiration I can’t fully express.
Instantly put under a spell by Jesse’s soothing, down-to-earth presence and heartfelt vocals, I pushed my way past a few young girls chatting and texting, standing near the front presumably to hold their space for Rogue Wave, but completely ignoring this wonderful performer. Now, you’ll all know that this is my favorite “pet peeve” – people who plant themselves in front of the stage and then babble to their friends throughout a musician’s set. No, I didn’t snap a flash photo in their faces so I can’t show them to you, but you’ll also know that I’m not beyond doing that. People, this is not background music for your pathetic drunken conversations. These are hard-working, earnest musicians who are kind enough to want to bring their music to your hometown, many of whom might earn enough money from CD sales at the shows to finance them to the next gig. For god’s sake, if you just want to get shit-faced and say stupid things to your equally-idiotic friends, buy yourselves a bottle of whiskey and stay home.
Back to Jesse. He moved adeptly from solo acoustic guitar to guitar and drums, accompanying himself on bass drum and cymbal… lovely. Never overshadowing the vocals, just enough to add a nice flourish and additional texture to the music. I had some trouble making out lyrics due to idle chatter around me, but this was certainly not his fault, nor the fault of the Paradise, which has excellent sound, even for something quieter and more delicate like this. An especially beautiful song (sorry, don’t know the name) saw him back at the front of the stage playing his guitar, mixing in some very nice harmonica with his clear, powerful voice, drifting up into higher registers for added emotional punch, though never overdone. There was also some tasteful “self-sampling” to accompany some really nice touches of slide guitar. Hopefully he’ll come around here again. Absolutely a class act.
As I’m listening now to his music, blissfully free of interference, I can happily report that his lyrics match the beauty of the music. Songs from his debut were written after moving to New York from Los Angeles, and there’s a sweet melancholy that runs through, with thoughtful introspection. The quiet solitude of time well-spent reassessing one’s life from a cabin in upstate New York.
“Please, don’t make a sound and stop your racing around
You’ve got feet on the ground but your head is a kite
And your heart longs to be found
Feeling free don’t come cheap anymore
Smile at me like you used to before
When the flames of a fire made you high
And you sat like a dog in the quiet
To breathe in the night
I’ve waited out all your storms
The pain and doubt has weakened my bones
But I’ll wait around even if it takes too long
I’ll wait around until the feeling is gone.”
– From Me to You and You to Me
JBM/Jesse Marchant’s debut album not even in July was recorded in Henry Hirsch’s Waterfront Studios, in Hudson, NY, in the Fall of 2008 and was released in early 2009. He also contributed music for the film “Lovers in a Dangerous Time”. Jesse’s originally from Montreal, Canada, is now based in Brooklyn, NY and Lake Clear, NY.
The crowd built slowly during Jesse’s set, and by the time Rogue Wave came on, the place was jam packed. They began with several songs from their new album Permalight, which was coming out the next day. As I was quite new to their music, I was coming at it with a clean slate, not expectant, not hoping to hear certain songs. I have to say, quite honestly, that I wasn’t terribly impressed at the start. It may just have been the band getting into its groove, on its first show of a new tour hyping a new album (which I gather is something of a departure from their earlier sound). Or perhaps I just don’t care for this newer material, which is poppier, synth-propelled, sometimes dancy, and to my ears, far more generic. A few people around me were moving around and pumping fists to “The Future”, but I think this was more of a “I’ve had a few drinks and I’m listening to a live rock band” reaction, rather than sincere appreciation.
“Solitary Gun” I thought was kind of interesting, but the first song that really caught my attention was “Sleepwalker”, which, listening now more carefully to some of their older material as well, I’d have to say has more of their original sound (which I’ve seen described as “melodic and pastoral” – hey, nothing wrong with that!).
A rant from Zach followed: “So much cynicism these days. FUCK cynicism! Always cutting each other down doesn’t get us anywhere… This one’s for the cynics.” Which then lead into “I’ll Never Leave You”, which is another favorite from the new album. It’s a gentle and pretty acoustic guitar-driven tune.
“These bottles and stones, we collected from our shores
we could line them one by one
’cause your pain is my pain
we’ll go out of this just the same
we’re better when our paths combine…”
– I’ll Never Leave You
After “Publish My Love” (from their 2005 release Descended Like Vultures), one of the funnier exchanges of the evening. “Only one thing I want to ask you guys…”, Zach began, to which a woman in the audience yelled out “show us your tits!” He responded with “I wasn’t expecting that.” You weren’t expecting that? You’re in Boston. The conversation continued, “Where were you in high school?” “I went to a catholic high school.” “Now see, I couldn’t get any ’cause girls wouldn’t give me any. You couldn’t get any ’cause god wouldn’t let you.”
Back to the music. For me, the second half of their set was the strongest. Not coincidentally, I’m sure, it was the latter part of the show that was loaded up with older material. Again, for me, the older stuff overall sounded more organic and somehow more substantial. Capturing my interest most were songs like “Bird On A Wire”, “Eyes” (which was featured in the film Just Friends, and which had some lovely ringing guitar lines), and “Love’s Lost Guarantee” (before which Zach teasingly sung a few lines, accapella, from “Postage Stamp World” – the only selection from their debut). There was an absolutely awesome tribal drum solo at the start of “Lake Michigan”, a huge crowd favorite which sounded fantastic. Audience emotions soaring high, they closed with the very lovely “Harmonium”. A pretty song, with the saddest of lyrics:
“All your dreams thrown in the trash
you were born into war
you were taught not to ask
for every single possibility
moving shadows in the dark
deciding fates over cocktail lunch
every single possibility.”
Loud cheering brought them back for a three-song encore which continued the high energy they had left with. They began with a nice slow ballad from their second album Asleep At Heaven’s Gate, “Cheaper Than Therapy”. Then – in what seemed like an unscripted moment, but looking at the set list afterward, clearly wasn’t – a vote was taken for what we preferred to hear next: ‘Kick’ (“Kicking The Heart Out”, I guess, from their debut) or “Medicine Ball”. We opted for the latter, which was wonderful. Things are a bit hazy in my scribbled notes (and failing memory) at this point. There were many shouts for “California” (one of their older and quite beautiful songs), which went unheeded, though I heard Zach say “we weren’t going to do that one, but you guys are so cool”. Not sure now what he was referring to. Did they perform part of something? The band was introduced, including their new keyboard player Steve Taylor. Zach introduced himself as Dick Cheney, there was some more nutty prattling, and “Chicago x 12” was I think mentioned though also not played.
Inviting the audience up on the stage (an attempt to create that ‘anything can happen’ rock concert atmosphere which – I dunno – kinda loses something when it’s obviously, you know, planned), they ended the encore with “Permalight” (title track of the new album), which I have to say brought the energy level down considerably from the high plateau where it had previously been. It’s clear their loyal fans will accept the new material and change of direction as the next chapter in the band’s history… it just might take a little time.
You can listen to all of Permalight streaming on Ultimate-Guitar.Com.share this: