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Jagwar Ma And Fascinator at Santa Monica Twilight Concert Series, Thursday August 7th 2014

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Jagwar Ma

On Thursday, the Santa Monica Pier had an Australian night, as they do it every year, and the dance electronic band Jagwar Ma took over the pier to transform the place into a giant dance party, but first, the two weirdos behind Fascinator did a fascinating and psychedelic set of electronic rhythms. Dressed up with Pakistani women’s dresses, wearing a truck hat and a veil with cartoon eyes drawn on it, they sure had the knack to puzzle the audience. All the music came from one guy Johnny Mackay, whereas the other one was only dancing and mimicking everything, from air drums to air guitar, or holding a chair for some unknown reason. Their slow psychedelic beats and synth swirls seemed to put everyone into a torpor as if a mysterious cult coming from the deep end of the universe had decided to indoctrinate the masses through some unknown spiritual force… I didn’t get anything of what they were saying but they talked about some kind of cosmic cult stuff afterward…. Mackey has described his music as ‘Beck and Kraftwerk doing peyote with The Stone Roses’ and this is about perfect to me, except I didn’t get the hats.

Jagwar Ma was the headliner and the reason why the pier was crowded with people in their early 20s… it would probably help to have heard their music before, because, at first, I didn’t know what to do with their tunes. Everything was very loud, resonating like a sort of thunderous semi-pop-rock, semi-electronic fuzzy mess played by three guys with a guitar, a bass and plenty of electronic equipment… It was first very cacophonic and the sort of loud and overwhelming music that fills up your head without giving you a chance to recover, then little by little, the dense sound became more distinct…. Although I still don’t know what I witnessed beside a very sweaty dance party.

These Australians have barely released one album, ‘Howlin’, and they have nevertheless already headlined festivals, played at Glastonbury and Coachella, and made Noel Gallagher say that ‘The future of the galaxy depends on the Temples and Jagwar Ma records. If those two records are right, the imperial forces will be defeated.’ This is in the very elogious NME review of their album! But if you listen to the album, it will only give you a very vague idea of what they sound live. On record, they sound almost clean and poppy, a sort of cute fusion of guitar and dance music with many references to the Beach Boys in the reviews,… Live, their sound was intense and fuzzy, taking all your senses by surprise (and all these flashing lights were helping a lot) and putting everybody in a sort of trance by dance,

Their set didn’t let anyone a minute to breathe, they were playing their brand of krautrock-y dance music with mostly furious but not angry-at-all beats, echoing vocals and everything was resonating, throbbing, vibrating while everyone was jumping, screaming and dancing. And yes, it can become a bit overwhelming after a few minutes, but it was only the beginning. The crowd became more and more excited, some kids were jumping into the VIP pit just to be caught by security guards, and I could tell that Jagwar Ma’s music was working all right on these people. The three guys looked very happy on stage, wearing three matching plain white tees, they made everything around me move for one hour and half, hypnotizing the crowd with electronic swirls, druggy pulsating beats and Jono Ma’s vocals which sounded like coming from the end of three deep tunnels.

I don’t get all these Tame Impala comparisons I have read about them, Jagwar Ma’s psychedelia soon turned to an EDM-rave party with a sort of vague exotic vibe (this must have been their Aussie side) and a tribal-dance-buried-in-a-wet-jungle sensation. I couldn’t make sense of one single lyrics (which I realized later were as simple as ABC), but people around me knew all the songs, especially ‘Come Save Me’, this one had an almost reworked African beat feeling. At one point they threw in the mix some Michael Jackson’s ‘Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough’, and everything turned funky for a few seconds, then frontman Jono Ma got so hot and excited that he removed his shirt. During the encore, before the catchy ‘That Loneliness’, they did something very un-Australian, and came back to cover Nirvana’s ‘All Apologies’, it was very electronic, but it worked nevertheless, at least they didn’t try to turn it into EDM remix. But to go back to this Gallagher’s comment, don’t you think they could have come up with a cover of ‘Supersonic’ instead?

 More pictures of the show here.

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