Arriving at Washington D.C.’s U Street Music Hall, the members of Jamaica were clearly drained from the 20-plus hours they’d spent traveling from their homes in Paris, France. Around the time the opening band Via Audio closed their set, a wave of energy entered the room in the form of Peter Franco. Franco, along with Xavier de Rosnay of J.U.S.T.I.C.E, is one of producers on Jamaica’s new album, No Problem.
Introduced as a friend, Franco’s amiable disposition never let on that his resume includes winning the 2008 Grammy for Best Electronic Album for the recording of Daft Punk’s, Alive 2007. With that said, Franco’s presence seemed to be an unspoken adrenaline shot for the band as they shook off their fatigue back stage. Laughing and singing along as Jackson Browne’s “Jamaica Say You Will” played over the P.A., the band took the stage before a small, but excited, Wednesday night crowd.
For a jet-lagged trio, Jamaica put on an impressively energetic and charismatic performance. Their show illustrated a number of diverse genre adoptions that span the past forty years: 70’s 4/4 disco drums and Bootsy Collins bass lines, showy 80’s guitar hooks and riffs, aggro 90’s stage presence, the modern draw of throwback Nike’s, and the millennial neon-sunglass sound-scape of 2010. Just in case you were wondering, there was absolutely no reggae.
A big part of Jamaica’s live success is the rhythmic interplay between drummer David Aknin and bassist Flo Lyonnet. Flo’s half-rock / half-funk bass riffs create a rhythm ditch so sexy that you’re stuck in the groove until David Aknin pulls you out and gets you jumping with his artful, yet drum-busting rolls & fills. Guitarist and lead vocalist Antoine Hilaire is no slouch either. His energy spills off the stage with his animated vocals, thrashy guitar solos and all around “early MTV’ persona.
Touring as a three piece with a set list comprised of songs off No Problem, Jamaica has figured out how to bulk up their live sound with nothing short of instrumental team work and strong vocal harmonies. Rather than view their performance as a challenge, the band takes the opportunity on stage to push their in-studio accomplishments to the next level.
David Aknin said, “On stage, you can be heavily influenced by the song from production. But at the same time, it’s a show, so there must be something from both (makes scissor fuck hand language).”
Antoine Hilaire added, “Live, it has to be tougher… this is a three piece on stage, playing a really programmed, chemical album. When it comes time for the shows, it’s going to be really lively, really rough and really rock-y. So we kind of rely on not being what people expect us to be – with the guitar solos and some branching out of the songs.”
With their own considerable ambition and talent, along with the guidance of two highly accomplished, forward thinking producers, Jamaica is poised for success. This band will keep putting on a great live performance, and as the popularity of French bands in America continues to escalate, you’ll probably see them opening for Phoenix within a few years.