JaggerMouth @ Fillmore Underground: Becoming The Headliner
JaggerMouth @ Fillmore Underground: Becoming The Headliner
“It’s exciting and a little bit nerve wracking. You don’t know what it’s going to sound like. There was no way it was going to sound bad. In fact, it sounds great. We are super excited to play The Underground,” exclaimed JaggerMouth drummer Jake Porter after soundcheck while we chatted before their first ever headlining show. I had the great pleasure of spending about an hour chatting about music, live performances, bands we love, the time the band was kicked out of Bethlehem, PA (not their fault), and of course, the aforementioned first headlining gig of Charlotte’s most high energy and flat out rocking band: JaggerMouth.
“It wasn’t exactly how we figured we get our first headlining show, but hey we’ll take it!” laughed Jake referring to the circumstances surrounding the implosion of Scowl Brow after their lead singer made a highly offensive and insensitive post on Facebook. (Scowl Brow was the original headliner of the show.)
“That was a mess, and we were afraid for a bit that the whole show was not going to happen. Or that protesters were going to show up,” claimed Jake. “It was pretty obvious that we didn’t share his views. I mean our bass player and the lead singer guitarist of The Business People (long term friends of Jake’s and another band on the bill) are African-American!” Later in the evening, when during Old Heavy Hand’s opening set a jeer against former Gov. Pat McCrory was lead from the stage, and when JaggerMouth lead singer Matt Wheeler hit the stage wearing an Anti-Flag hoodie with the words Anti-Racist, Anti-Homophobia, Anti-Sexist, Anti-Capitalist, Anti-Transphobic, Anti-Fascist, Anti-Nationalist, and Anti-War emblazoned on it, the spirit of the night was confirmed in opposition to the imagery conveyed in Robby Hale’s post. Protesters not needed. In fact, if they had shown up, they’d have enjoyed the show.
Whatever the circumstances that lead to it, JaggerMouth stepped up brilliantly to take the lead as show headliner, and it wasn’t an easy task. The talented line up playing before them was formidable. Old Heavy Hands with their southern rock rumble, Paint Fumes with their speedy punk riffs, and The Business People with their eclectic indie sounds were no easy acts to follow. JaggerMouth did so fearlessly though. Their set, the highlights of which were a sublime performance of “Stillwater” off their new album The Album Formerly Known as Record, and a crowd diving performance of “Midnight Sun” off their previous long player were phenomenal and capped a night that served as a celebration of the diverse home grown rock music that Charlotte is becoming nationally known for.
“I think it’s a good mesh of styles for the evening” remarked Jake during our pre-show discussion. “I love shows that have genres that mix well, but aren’t exactly the same thing. When I’d go to a show as a kid sometimes, you’d end up hearing the same song three times in a row, you know? Going to a show being interested in one band, but ending up getting exposed to a variety of music and expanding your likes by the end of the evening is one of the benefits of a show like this one and is the type of show I’m most interested in attending myself.”
Terms like “kinetic,” “rocking,” “powerful,” and “cathartic,” as overused as they are, apply to JaggerMouth’s live performance, but somehow still fail to capture the experience of it. Loud, rambunctious, laced with humor (as well as authenticity), and physicality, JaggerMouth are the type of band, and musicians, that can play their songs perfectly note for note while laying upside down across the photo pit barriers and half submerged in the crowd, in a way that makes the crowd a creative participant in the show rather than just a spectator of it. During their set, bassist TJ Banks leaned, stretched, and reached his bass, and body, out into the crowd multiple times. Guitarist Joe Boyland sat on the photo pit barrier railing during a few songs and the only member who didn’t touch the crowd was Jake, only because he was diligently laying down the backbeat behind the drum kit during the show, and powerfully so. Interactions by bands like this with their audience can be trite, but with JaggerMouth, much like their unfairly labeled “retro” sound, it’s instead authentic and visceral. I hadn’t witnessed that kind of authenticity since I was in front of the stage at a King’s X show at Gottrocks in Greenville, SC a few years back.
“We feed off the energy of the crowd and give it back as much as we can,” explained Jake. Energy is perhaps the best non-cliched word that describes the key component of the band’s live performance. But it’s the perfect mesh of personalities that make the band so engaging live.
“I’m the business mind behind it, where TJ and Nick are the more personal, up in your face, having fun… and Joe is too, but he’s a little more reserved and so is Matt. But I think all of our personalities balance out and we ended up really lucky in that situation,” explained Jake. “The hardest thing about being in a band is ‘being in a band,’ but we really genuinely enjoy writing and playing music together.”
When you see these guys play together live, you can feel the connection they have with each other musically and personally. They all have different musical interests and likes and playing styles, but that is what makes them so cohesive as a performing unit, and a songwriting one. It’s a band effort on the stage and in the studio, and the energy that this dynamic generates is a palpable one.
“He’s joking!” mouthed Jake to me with a laugh, “You did write the bass line though!”
“No, you’re right, I remember. I didn’t write it. I just told my Mom I did,” admitted TJ. “See this is why I can’t take them out in public!” laughed Jake.
“I’m still teaching them manners!” The exchange was the perfect example of the humorous banter, snarky as it might be at times, between the band members that is really just an aspect of the mutual admiration that the band members have for each other. Jake spoke almost reverentially about Matt’s vocals and the need to set a live schedule that allows him to maintain his peak vocal ability as the band begins to play more and more shows and tour further and further around the country.
“The lead singer is a just a little important to the success of the band,” laughed Jake. Matt was a bit under the weather just before the show that night, but his performance betrayed nothing of it. “Matt always finds a way to put on the best show and perform at his highest level no matter what the circumstances, be it strep throat or the sniffles.”
It’s that kind of dedication and ability that each member of the band glaringly displayed during their live set. You don’t get to that level of crowd interaction and controlled chaos, during the presentation of a live sound that matches your studio sound without the type of dedication and ability JaggerMouth revels in. Some bands sound great on plastic or digitally streamed and suck live. Some sound great live, but their recorded material lacks the passion of their live performance. Some bands, the rarest kind, excel at both. JaggerMouth is one of those rare bands.
So now that JaggerMouth has proved themselves more than capable of being headliners, what’s next?
“We have a November residency coming up at Snug Harbor. We’re looking to playing more shows on the road next year as well, cutting down our Charlotte performances to maybe four or five a year. Both at Snug Harbor and here at The Underground, that is if they’ll have us back after tonight,” laughed Jake.
I don’t think he has anything to worry about on that front after seeing them perform and energize the crowd. As far as what’s next recording wise for JaggerMouth, Jake mentioned that a few videos were in the works, including one for “Stillwater” (still my personal favorite off the new album), and a vinyl release early next year on which “one or two… or maybe more” new songs will debut.
With a wider tour, a vinyl release of their new album, up to three possible videos, and a residency all in the immediate future, JaggerMouth is about to demonstrate to rock fans everywhere what their hometown fans are already aware of. JaggerMouth not only became headliners that night, they became THE band to see in Charlotte and, very soon, beyond.