(Unfortunately, this photo of them setting up was as clear a shot as I was able to get all night.)
I was able to catch JJAMZ in concert this past Sunday, when they were playing at The Griffin roadhouse in San Diego. Not really my scene, but JJAMZ's 2012 album, Suicide Pact, had been on heavy rotation in my music player lately, so, when I heard that they were coming to San Diego, it seemed the natural progression for me to attend.
Kicking off the night was local band Clockart playing a few songs. Their sound was mellow, generally pleasant, befitting a beach town. The lead singer's wispy vocals tended to get drowned out by the instruments, but I think that's just their style of music.
Up next was JJAMZ. You perhaps know their song "Heartbeat," which was featured in the promo video for the Myspace relaunch late last year, as well as in the Express Holiday 2012 TV spot.
As much as I enjoy their album full of catchy pop songs–Suicide Pact is one of those rare few that I can listen to straight through and enjoy without skipping any tracks—I wasn't sure what to expect from them live. Videos I'd seen online of some of their previous performances suggested to me that lead singer Elizabeth "Z" Berg was maybe not the most sublime live vocalist. But, in person, she really did impress. A practiced performer, she knew how to command the stage and play to the crowd, strutting about, playing with her hair, at one point kneeling toward the crowd, and making eye contact and smiling when she spotted audience members with their camera phones raised. And those vocals? She's really good. Maybe something was lost in those less-than-pristine YouTube videos I'd seen. She definitely put her all into every song, and, although the arrangements were more or less the same, I found her singing more impressive in person than on the album, where she sounds comparatively more processed, ethereal, and restrained. I suppose the clean and steady "disembodied voice" sound of a recording is good and versatile for repeated use as the background music to one's day, whereas the more vital and spontaneous quality of a live performance is desirable when one is committing time and money to go out specifically to give one's full attention to listening.
After they wrapped up their set, the band members also hung around a bit for photos and hugs with fans, which was quite cool.
Their full set list was as follows:
"Get What You Want"
"Ceremony" (new song—you can check out a recording from a previous show, captured by YouTube user bluerocketm)
"You Were My Home" (Z Berg: "This is an old song, man. Of a different time in my life.")
"Square One" (apparently the first song they wrote together as a band)
Closing the show was the headlining indie duo of Adam Green and Binki Shapiro. I had never heard of either of them, which is no surprise, since my musical consumption tends more toward the pedestrian. Adam Green's Facebook page does have about three times as many likes as JJAMZ's, but that's not saying much, since neither has a lot yet (around 25,000 for Green). Binki Shapiro, meanwhile, was mistakenly referred to on JJAMZ's Facebook as "Bikini Shapiro," which I actually thought would have been the cooler name, until I heard one audience member dub her "The Bink," whereupon everything made sense. (In a funny coincidence, I read this article the next day about how, early in their careers, The Beatles opened for one Helen Shapiro.)
In any case, I got the impression that quite a number of those in attendance at The Griffin had, like me, come just for JJAMZ, and I observed many departing in staggered exodus throughout Green and Shapiro's set. In fairness, it was getting late, and maybe people were tired. I stuck around because I would have felt bad leaving early. I found them slightly irritating—Green with his affected awkwardness, all dorky dance moves and dorkier jokes between songs, while Shapiro played his subdued foil—but their music—mostly quirky, tongue-in-cheek love songs—though not especially to my taste, probably holds a certain charm for recovering romantics.