Sunday, June 16, 2024

The JCQ + &U&I + Wax Futures, The Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham 19/03/14

Upon entering the Sunflower Lounge and seeing the letters ‘R.I.P’ crudely annotated on the kick drum with gaffa tape, you’d be led to believe that tonight’s show would be something of a melancholy affair. After all, this is the first night of the JCQ’s final tour. Add to this that the band are supported by &U&I (of former Blakfish, a band the JCQ had often lauded in their early years) and we’re in for a pretty intense, potentially unsettling evening.

Wax Futures
First up are Telford three-piece Wax Futures. Opening their set with the hooky and angular ‘Breadcrumbs’, Wax Futures clearly define the scope of their sound—with cutting basslines; tight, intricate rhythms; and catchy, swirling guitar riffs, the band unapologetically embrace the anthemic mood of the likes of Rival Schools and Fugazi.
Midway through their set the band introduces their latest offering, a single entitled ‘Clocks and Clocks and Clocks’, which sees the development of their gutsy output towards something more considered. Languorous, driving rhythms takes the listener through numerous twists and turns before a killer refrain ends the song with vehemence. Bringing their set to a close is ‘Stone Cold Jane Austen’, a track with equal parts raw power and dirge. The sound all goes a bit ‘Endless, Nameless’ by the time this trio parts the stage, setting up a perfect atmosphere for the rest of the evening.

As &U&I move on to the stage the energy between performers and audience seems to become a little more claustrophobic. What’s fascinating is this band’s ability to blend dark, oppressive drawn out phrases with moments of unadulterated punk power. Sparse and intricate guitar work is accompanied by grinding drums and bass, making the small venue seem so vast and full of sound.

Aside from being troubled by an intermittent microphone, vocalist/guitarist Thom Peckett manages to capture the temperament of the night by creating dynamic, textured soundscapes, combining soaring melodies with dirty, throaty cries. Ripping through such favourites as ‘Belly Full of Fire & a Heart Full of Blood’ and ‘Accordingly in Motion’, &U&I seemed completely unaffected as that the audience followed each moment of their set with baited breath.

With so many bodies crammed on stage it’s only a matter of time before the JCQ begin to spill out into the audience, beginning what is to become a totally immersive forty-five minutes. Within moments a circle pit has broken out and the audience is peppered with crowd surfers.
The JCQ immediately present themselves as slick operators; effortlessly gliding through such diverse genres as post-punk, swing, Latin, mathcore and everything in between, there’s a wry knowingness to their performance. The band speed through wildly popular songs like ‘Snakes’ and their first single ‘Chicken Shit (For the Soul)’ from their 2011 album ‘That Was Then, This Is Now’ with such frenzy and aplomb that its difficult not to be seduced by the aura of frenetic energy being supplied by this band in their death throes.

As a testament to the band’s ability to shake up even their own stuff, they introduced ‘Amidship & Afloat’ from their second album ‘Mechanical Young’ into their set—a fearlessly synth driven groove track which vocalist Jack Saunders admits the band has always been looking for an opportunity to play live. Ending the set with the cool, dancy ‘Aspidistra’, JCQ guitarist Maud proceeds to make his way up through the crowd and up the narrow staircase, handing over his guitar to &U&I bassist Richard Lee, who jams along with the band until the levels are turned down.

Tonight the JCQ really demonstrate that behind all the screeching guitars, flailing bodies and difficult math-y bits is an incomparable ability to write phenomenally catchy and instantly likeable pop riffs. R.I.P JCQ.
Photographs by Daisy Blecker.