The three- (now currently five-) piece out of Portland, Oregon was formed from of the ashes of the well loved Blood Brothers and Pretty Girls Make Graves, but has quickly been making a name all their own, thanks to their electric live shows. And they were just that and more at Brooklyn’s Southpaw on Tuesday, August 19th.
Currently on tour opening up for The Faint, Jaguar Love unfortunately had to miss opening the night before at Terminal 5, because the Jaguars had also played Siren Music Festival (QRO recap) on Coney Island just under a month ago, and festival rules for some reason dictated that they couldn’t play NYC a month before or after Siren. But Manhattan’s loss was Brooklyn’s gain, as the band got away from the cavernous Terminal 5 (QRO venue review) and headlined the much more intimate Southpaw (QRO venue review), where they got to get up close and personal with fans who were there completely for them.
It was also the release date of their debut LP, Take Me To the Sea (QRO review), making the night extra special (curiously, the Jaguars weren’t the only Siren band that day playing a New York gig on the date of their full-length debut – QRO photos of Ra Ra Riot earlier that evening). And the band hit up every single track on The Sea, in order – more or less. While singer Johnny Whitney announced that the band was going to lead things off with Sea’s opener “Highways of Gold”, the band actually started with the following “Bats Over the Pacific Ocean”. However, “Ocean” is maybe the best piece on Sea (almost strangely akin to a twenty-first century “That Was Your Mother” from Paul Simon’s Graceland), and its frantic, frenetic energy got the night going right.
Jaguar Love got back on the “Highway” after that, and after the dual-vocaled “Ocean”, with Whitney sharing with his ex-Blood Brother, guitarist Cody Votolato, the singer was really able to go nuts when assuming full lead duties. With a voice somewhere between glam-rock and a sex change operation (those who’d only heard, but never seen, Jaguar Love could be forgiven for thinking that their singer was a girl), the appearance of an emo-rocker, and an energy level set permanently at 110%, Whitney is the kind of signature frontman you just don’t see much anymore. He would constantly run right up to the excited crowd, and in between songs either ask, “Do you have love for Jaguar Love?”, or declared Jaguar Love’s own love for Brooklyn (and Manhattan, and Queens… even Staten Island…). It all made pieces like their semi-eponymous “Jaguar Pirates” a sight to behold.
Jaguar Love playing “Jaguar Pirates” live at Southpaw in Brooklyn, NY:
Like on record, right when things seemed to be about to boil over, the Jaguars simmered it down a bit with the slower “Georgia”, whose “Take me to the sea” chorus was a veritable sing-along with the crowd, before going a bit darker and more hard-hitting with “Vagabond Ballroom”. “Humans Evolve Into Skyscrapers” took the night in a grander direction, while “Antoine and Birdskull” proved why it’s the band’s favorite to play live. The night simmered again on the almost-torch song-like “Bonetrees and a Broken Heart”, but returned to the bombast with the driving “The Man With the Plastic Suns”.
Jaguar Love playing “Vagabond Ballroom” live at Southpaw in Brooklyn, NY:
With only one more song from Take Me To the Sea left to play, Jaguar Love jumped out of their album – and out of time – to deliver an impressive cover of “Have Love, Will Travel”, from the sixties jangle-garage rock Pacific Northwest act, The Sonics. Yet somehow that fit in well with the Take Me line-up, and helped bring up the energy for the night’s big finish, “My Organ Sounds Like…”. It wasn’t just Whitney’s high-pitched chorus wail, but Votolato joining him, removing the guitar to jump into the crowd beside him, while Clark and the rhythm section remarkably kept the beat steady. Perhaps it was the outlet of getting to headline to their own fans in the midst of a tour opening for someone else’s, and/or the joy of Take Me To the Sea making it to the record store, but Jaguar Love was an extra wild beast that night – even for them…
Jaguar Love playing “My Organ Sounds Like…” live at Southpaw in Brooklyn, NY: