Jarryd James + Secret Weapons
10 Aug 2015: Bowery Ballroom New York
Shaking off the stickiness of yet another blisteringly hot August night, the crowd poured into the Bowery Ballroom on the 10th, eager to see if rising Aussie singer-songwriter Jarryd James was worth the blogosphere-hype. With just two songs currently available on Spotify, and only a single show in North America to his credit, no one would have blamed the crowd for failing to fully dive into James’ (mostly unknown) collection of soulful, electronic-tinged R&B tunes.
But any worries the singer may have held should have been quickly assuaged given the audience’s warm reception. Expect the singer’s relative anonymity in the States to vanish over the course of the next few weeks; on September 11th James will release his debut album, Thirty One.
Before James jumped on stage, Brooklyn’s Secret Weapons opened the night with a speedy set of electropop rock anthems. The duo, comprised of Danny E. and Gerry Lange, had been friends for years before taking their affinity for ‘80s-pop to the public. Danny and Gerry kept the stage banter to an absolute minimum, instead choosing to smash through a tight set of dance floor-ready tunes. Oh, sorry, to all the audience members who thought they would be hearing a handful of electro-R&B burners, a la headliner James.
Nope. Wasn’t gonna happen.
Secret Weapons had other ideas. It’s almost as if Danny and Gerry were locked in a cage for about 14 years, and they only were allowed out for their (unfortunately brief) 20-minute dance-pop sprint. Did they think they were going to be kicked off the stage at any second? Did they wonder if the Bowery Ballroom had made a mistake by bringing them up on stage? Whatever the reason, the duo (plus accompanying friends on keys, drums, saxophone, and backing vocals) stormed through their tunes with the kind of rabid enthusiasm that can make even the most hardened music critic stomp his feet, shake his head, and scream perverse obscenities at the ceiling in his bone-rattling enthusiasm.
In other words, pretty much exactly how I acted. And, yes, I do apologize to the brunette to whom I may have accidentally whacked in the face during a particularly passionate flinging of the arms. If you are out there Miss. Brunette, I am sorry, but when Secret Weapons start playing tunes like the This-Should-Be-on-the-Radio-Why-Isn’t-This-on-the-Radio? firestarter “Perfect World”, things can get a little messy.
But in a good way, you know?
After Secret Weapons wrapped up their raucous set, there was only time for a brief drink (or four, depending on the alcoholic in question) before Mr. Jarryd James strode on stage. Wearing a long sleeved white shirt and addressing the crowd softly, it was easy to imagine James leading something closer to a church sermon than a rock concert, and perhaps the metaphor isn’t even that far off. From the first driving chords of the (still officially unreleased) “Sell It to Me” to the dual singles of “Give Me Something” and “Do You Remember” that have ignited international interest in the singer, the crowd gave itself over to James’ haunting performance.
It’s still too early to throw a thick stack of accolades upon James’ shoulders (after all, the number of songs he has released can be counted on two fingers), but after standing in a crowd of music-lovers, watching as they paid tribute to the figure towering in white above them, it would be difficult to not be more than a little impressed. The man is already selling out his own tours and supporting top-tier talent like Broods and Angus and Julia Stone. With producer’s like Joel Little (Lorde) and Malay (Frank Ocean) in his corner, there’s no telling what will come next for the budding star.
But, for at least one night, the focus didn’t have to be on the future because the present was already, well, a present. James performed like a seasoned music vet (which made sense since he already had more than a decade of experience under his belt), and the audience joyfully (perhaps a little too joyfully given some of James’ melancholy lyrics) came along for the ride.
What more could you want from your first Big Apple show?