14 Feb 2023

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.

  1. 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  ↩︎