Jubilee – Manchester – Night and Day Cafe, United Kingdom – 2008-09-11

Where: Manchester – Night and Day Cafe, United Kingdom.

When: 2008-09-11

So, I didn’t want to start like this but there’s no real way to get round it; yes, Jubilee’s line-up does contain ex-members of Nine Inch Nails and The Icarus Line and one current member of Queens of the Stone Age. However, any preconceptions or expectations this information might give you should be left firmly at the door if you go to see them play. Jubilee is a different beast altogether; this LA band has gone back to its roots for a small venue tour, bringing their exuberant, scuzzy, Brit-pop tinged music with them.

I was understandably excited about this gig, as the first time I saw them they were actually much better than I ever could have imagined. Seeing such fantastic musicians in a small, intimate setting was awesome and I think the band probably fed off the ‘small grimy UK venue’ atmosphere (and you don’t get much grimier than WA1) as well. The only thing spoiling it was the less than enthusiastic and, in some cases, downright irritating crowd and the fact that half of them seemed to piss off to the bar downstairs after the support acts – meaning they missed out on the amazing headlining band. Their loss.

This time round, then, I was expecting more of the same boundless energy that Jubilee displayed last time. I found myself getting increasingly impatient waiting around before the support band started; drinking the ridiculously priced bottled beer and feeling more and more overwhelmed by the almost tropical temperatures in the venue. I admit, I was kind of falling asleep there for a while, in between being tempted to take up smoking just so I could go and stand outside for a bit – that place seriously needs to sort out its ventilation issues.

My expectations were raised even higher by fantastic Canadian support act, Les Gars. Admittedly, I don’t really know all that much about them, but the lyrics I heard seemed to be about the minimum wage, girls and other rock ‘n’ roll things. The vocals were gritty, rough and their fairly short set created a great party atmosphere. At least, it would have done if they could have inspired some movement into the tired limbs of the audience – but I’m not blaming the band for this, I’m blaming the temperature and the price of beer. The best thing by far about this band though was the bass playing – which was always spot on rhythmically and was so prominent it was hard to ignore the complexity of what the guy was doing. All this and the bassist still managed to spend much of his time jigging around like a mad pixie, which was truly quite impressive. The key things Les Gars provided were energy, enthusiasm and grit in bucketfuls; a perfect support band for Jubilee and definitely a band to watch out for in the future.

We were now onto the main event, but unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond their control, luck seemed to be against Jubilee for the rest of the night. An event involving their van, the M6 and the police had left a lot of their equipment less than useful. It was very difficult to have any other reaction to the delay other than to feel very sorry for these guys; who obviously wanted to put on a great show but were struggling against what seemed like fairly insurmountable technical problems. As it approached 10:45 I realised that there was no way I was going to be seeing much of Jubilee at all, what with my last train home being at 11:20. I was very upset by this in all honesty, but just about managed to retain my composure.

Not to be kept down for long, however, the members of Jubilee; Aaron North (guitar/vocals), Michael Shuman (bass/vocals), Jeff Lynn (guitar) and Troy Petrey (drums); soon after came onto the stage. Shuman apologised for the delay and promised they would play as many songs as possible with the time and equipment they had left. North also apologised, in his own special way. Good enough for me; but apparently not for the bloke standing to the side of me, who went into a fit of unparalleled rage because North had had the audacity to speak when he should have been playing. His use of language was impressively colourful.

Let’s just say this interaction ended with North brandishing a mic stand quite threateningly (although, I guess it’s never an action that’s going to look friendly) in an attempt to ward off the rabid local. The crowd fell into a hushed silence, maybe taking bets on who would come out the winner. My money was always on the guy holding the big metal pole standing on the monitor amp. Luckily, it didn’t actually come to blows, which was somewhat of a relief.

However, having said all that and despite the fact that the guy was clearly acting like a cock, it was possibly the best thing that could have happened. Jubilee seemed pretty pissed off before this event, what with the equipment screw-up, but this made them practically vitriolic. They blistered through about five songs (which was all I had time to hear before being dragged away to catch the train), including “Rebel Hiss” and “In With The Out Crowd”, with North slashing his guitar at the air and the mic (which seemed to keep cutting out) with unabated violence.

This was definitely the most furious version of “Rebel Hiss” I’ve heard from them; usually sounding quite jaunty, North’s voice was raspier than usual here and the bridge section was ominous with all the band members thrashing around the stage in a barely contained frenzy. Their performance, what I saw of it, was fantastically edgy; their annoyance at being treated badly for something that was not their fault seeming to drive them on to provide the audience with a performance that would leave them with pounding hearts and dry mouths. They certainly delivered.

It was a shame, in my opinion, that I didn’t see any of the quieter stuff, like “Fool On The Pill” (although they might have played it after I left) – which showcases a softer side to Jubilee, provided for the most part by Shuman’s almost sweet sounding vocal tones. I have to admit, I’m adding this bit into my review mostly because one peculiar reviewer has made the comment previously that Jubilee’s songs are good up until the point when Shuman takes centre stage – when, apparently, the songs take a boring, folky-sounding nose-dive. I think this is just wrong. In fact, I’d go further than that; it’s just objectively wrong. Shuman is an integral part of Jubilee’s live act, both musically and vocally. Yes, his voice is different, but certainly no worse, than North’s. As for the comment about things going downhill on the slow songs – well, obviously some people just can’t cope with time signature changes, which is a pity. Further to this, Michael Shuman is an obscenely good bass player – it was worth the money just to see him play one song. I think I’ve made my opinion fairly clear on this point now, so I’ll get off my soapbox.

Overall, this was a fantastic gig and I was genuinely distressed to miss the end of it and was almost considering shelling out the £40 taxi fare home just so I could catch the end. However, I decided better of it and that Manchester was not the kind of place you want to get stranded in for too long at that time. This point was made all the more clear to me as, when I was approaching Piccadilly Station, a man came up to me completely convinced that he knew me from last weekend and asked me if he could have his boxer shorts back. How strange.

Seriously though, Jubilee are touring the UK for awhile longer I think and anyone living in this fine country should head down to their nearest venue and see them before the release of their debut full-length album (hopefully soon!). If I was impressed with five songs, just imagine what a whole set is like! If you live elsewhere in the world, well, you’ll just have to wait your turn I suppose – but hopefully they’ll be appearing in a venue near you soon.

(PLEASE NOTE: These fantastic photographs are used with the permission of Edmund Townend, and were taken by him and not me. They were also taken at the Jubilee gig in Cardiff, not at Manchester. More awesome photographs from the Cardiff set can be seen here: http://stellarspontaneous.fotki.com/jubilee/)