Jamie T. / The Interrupters
Dec. 2, 2014
San Francisco is not good at skanking. San Francisco is good at many things – winning the World Series three times within five years, making people angry at tech companies, convincing tourists that trolley rides are incredibly entertaining experiences – but it pales in comparison to its aesthetically unpleasing cousin across the Bay Bridge when it comes to showing enthusiasm at a rock concert. The last time I saw The Interrupters perform at Berkeley’s Gilman (a.k.a. 924 Gilman Street) several months ago, the entire floor was packed with kids dancing off their Vans and Converse-clad feet. The circle pit Tuesday night at The Independent consisted of me and another guy I’ll call “Jack–I don’t know his real name, because we never formally introduced ourselves to each other. We were just too embarrassed even to make eye contact after that botched attempt at getting a party started. Sorry, Jack–we tried…
Despite the tepid early reaction, both L.A.-based ska-punk rockers The Interrupters and U.K.-hailing headliner Jamie T. thoroughly impressed. Boasting high energy, tight musicianship, and enough attitude to fill a venue much larger than the relatively tiny indie rock club, both groups made the weekday night feel more like a celebration than it probably should have felt.
Shuffling onstage wearing a leather jacket, denim vest, skinny jeans and baseball cap, Jamie T. looked like a walking clash of subversive youth culture, from ’50s greaser to disheveled Teddy Boy to legitimately cool hipster. Likewise, his music seemed to blur the lines between genre and generation, equally as influenced by tunes downloaded last week as by vinyl pressed 30 years ago. His set list ranged from haunting, slow-burn rockers like “Don’t You Find” to verbose, super-charged pieces of indie pop like “Sticks ‘n’ Stones,” a song with enough wordplay to rival some of the better rappers out there. Some songs, like the cheeky ballad “The Prophet,” were delivered in a voice vacillating between Alex Turner and Damon Albarn; others, like the Big Brother-warning “British Intelligence,” were spit out with scathing satire and breathless fury. (Paranoia directed toward imposing government entities was a theme prevalent in the punk hysterics of The Interrupters’ set as well, especially on most pit starters “Can’t Be Trusted” and “Take Back the Power.”)
Hunched over so far to reach the vocal mic that his back was nearly parallel to the stage floor, Jamie T. pulled off the entire performance with a sort of understated charm. Although my rigid American ears had trouble deciphering his thick British accent during between-song stage banter, I could at least understand how much the crowd adored this laid-back singer-songwriter, a fact greatly emphasized when he began playing “Zombie,” the latest single from his new LP, Carry On The Grudge. This is where the audience went wild, and for good reason: “Zombie” is simply one of the catchiest, most boisterous singles released this year. Full of supple melodic hooks, a gripping, singalong chorus, and a thoroughly danceable back-beat, this is the song that got the fans moving.
There may be hope for you yet, San Francisco.
All photos: Niail O’Brien