Photo Credit: Carolina Faruolo
Among a careless and excited crowd one might find it hard not being stepped on or drawn into a bundle of energetic youths jumping around, but what kind of gig would it be if you didn’t find yourself being shoved into the person next to you for an hour? If you disagree you probably wouldn’t want to be in the standing area of a JAWS gig. On the 23rd of November JAWS took to Bristol’s Thekla, a boat with the capacity of only 400 (let’s appreciate the jaws on a boat pun for a second), to kick off their first proper UK tour in about a year. It was as special as one would imagine. A room of 400 people absolutely losing themselves to the music cannot quite be expressed in words that would accurately reflect the euphoria of the experience. For that hour it felt as if every person in the audience had no care in the world and the only thing they were occupied with was jumping as energetically as they could to the sounds of JAWS.
The band’s second album Simplicity was released in early November and consists of a collection of 11 tracks that gave JAWS fans the music they had so patiently anticipated since the release of the single What We Haven’t Got Yet late last year. JAWS have since received praise for delivering material that introduces new sounds within Simplicity, while eluding the lines between indie rock and dream pop with melodies reminiscent of their Be Slowly days. The few hundred people who came to see JAWS on this Wednesday night got to hear the magic of Simplicity echo through the small Thekla for themselves as the band made the first live debut of the album. Surprisingly but to my delight, JAWS made room for all 11 tracks of Simplicity on the setlist, even giving the album’s interlude a moment in the spotlight between the end of the show and the encore.
Most songs didn’t need any introduction beyond the ‘‘this is the first time we’re playing this one, sorry if it’s not perfect’’ comments lead singer Connor Schofield made between playing Simplicity songs and before he could begin to sing – regardless of the song – the music was embraced with enthusiastic cheers. Still, after having played the majority of the new album, the singer introduced an old fan favourite by gently speaking the words ‘’be slowly’’ in the microphone. The immediate reaction of the audience was electric. The entire crowd began to swing and dance to the intro riffs of the song and the next few minutes consisted of nothing more than absolute bliss. The band was evidently humbled by the crowd’s reactions and the night was not short of ‘’thank yous’’ and ‘‘wows’’ as expressed by Connor in response on multiple occasions.
A special moment of the gig both for the crowd and Schofield was when the singer left us in a state of reverence as his melodic vocals accompanied by the slow guitar riffs of 17 shifted the atmosphere to a touching performance sung from the heart. ‘’Don’t wanna feel like this when I’m only 17’’, Schofield sang about a more stressful time in his life and as the rest of the band joined in with their instruments for the hook, the lyrics ‘’I wanna run from me’’ were sung back from the crowd to an overwhelmed Connor. The band closed with the single Gold from their debut album as they always do, and Connor thanked us one last time before leaving the stage.
Whether you hadn’t heard of JAWS until now or you fell in love with their dreamy EP Milkshake back in 2013, this band is exceptional. Standing out against many other within their genre, their live performances are as outstanding as their music. And much like them, this live experience was exceptional and one cannot deny that the feeling was mutual for both the band and the audience. There is a certain beauty to connecting with strangers over music. And looking back at the messy and sweaty experience now, I have realised that within the hustle of that night the connection between us and them encapsulated everything that JAWS has tried to show us through their work; that there is an undeniable simplicity to loving and experiencing music.