Live Review: The New Pornographers and Jaill
By Julianne Wilson
Jaill is used to playing shows for only twenty people. Tonight, they are performing for a crowd of hundreds. They had the audience bopping to quirky lyrics, such as “I eat cereal bowl after bowl/I like winter with no coat,” but when lead singer Vinnie Kircher tried to crack jokes in between songs, his voice got lost in the crowd. “Thank god,” he tells me, when we meet up before the New Pornographer’s set. “I was just rambling on stage. But you have to talk up there, to remind everyone that we’re just people too.”
The Milwaukee-based band got their spot opening for the New Pornographers through a stroke of luck. There were visa complications with the original opening band and they could not make it. The band’s backstage room in Rams Head Live is small, sparsely decorated, and stocked with condoms—befitting the seedy Power Plant venue. A woman pops her head in to tell us that there is no smoking allowed. “Except weed,” she says. “Weed is cool.” This is good news for Jaill. They started off as a “stoner college project” and still maintain that vibe, although the band has been around for twelve years.
When asked about his creative process, Kircher says he just grabs “a bowl, a beer, and my guitar, and words just come in stints.” Vinnie is laid back and easy-going, the kind of guy who makes music for fun and catharsis rather than as a way to impress people. “I’m not about that discordant stuff,” he says. “I like things that sound simple and pretty—the kind of music that would be good for running or driving around.”
Their pop-rock sound would be lost in a sea of similar indie bands, if not for the fills of drummer Josh Evert—who seems straight out of the world of the film Whiplash. Even their cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Everywhere is too reminiscent of Vampire Weekend to impress. Their sound is unoriginal but undeniably fun.
After talking with Jaill, I swing a wrong turn and end up in a backstage alcove directly connected to the stage. The New Pornographers are in the middle of a performance of “Dancehall Domine”—a track off of their new album, Brill Bruisers. A man who I presume to be a manager stands in front of me, smoking a cigarette. When he turns around and grab an acoustic guitar off of the wall, I realize that he is Dan Bejar, front man of the band Destroyer. I wish him good luck before he goes on stage, and he humbly thanks me. But he does not need luck— Destroyer moves in between songs without effort, despite the chaos that inevitably accompanies quick offstage changes.
While Jaill seemed giddy and goofy, The New Pornographers are utterly cool and collected, performing like a well-oiled, over-rehearsed machine.
Neko Case is elsewhere tonight, diminishing the power-pop band’s typically vibrant energy. However, I am delighted when Blaine Thurier plays a melodica (a mix between a wind instrument and a keyboard) during their performance of Bleeding Heart Show.
“Let’s live some dreams, Baltimore,” singer A.C. Newman calls out to the audience, an older crowd who seemed more content to nod in gleeful approval than dance. The New Pornographers played well, but lacked the enthusiasm that characterizes their sound. I would have chalked this up to the band’s longevity and shifting group of performers, if I had not heard Jaill’s story.
After over a decade, Kircher is the only original band member playing with Jaill. However, despite their long run and new ensemble, the band still maintains it’s positive energy and good chemistry. The New Pornographers, on the other hand, seem to be slipping. Although they are still producing strong new music in the studio, The New Pornographers’ live performances seem to be losing their edge.
The New Pornographers/Jaill
Rams Head Live
20 Market Place, Baltimore, Maryland, 21202
Julianne Wilson is a writer, filmmaker, and beach bum from Rowayton, Connecticut.