It was perhaps the most Jockstrap thing ever…
They’ve just opened for Blur at Wembley, have over two-hundred thousand monthly Spotify listeners, have an album shortlisted for a Mercury Prize and they still choose a tiny, intimate, bizarre 500-person venue on Glasgow’s energetic Jamaica Street to kick start their tour. The venue usually hosts a hodgepodge of mid-life-crisis style events for 50+ year olds; nights like the “Take That Experience” this Friday and “An Intimate evening with Scotty 2 Hotty” at the end of the Month… (Scotty is a WWE icon, all of these are real events). Perhaps the most enticing feature for Jockstrap was that the venue was directly next to Scotland’s renowned dance music institution: Subclub (a venue that would have undoubtedly been known by the duo).
Up a few flights of stairs, you are met with a jam-packed dance floor — a strange combination of emo kids, artsy kids, hypercritical 6 music dads, and of course a scattering of baffled locals who thought it was the venue’s “Scotty 2 Hotty” night. The support act, Thoom, provided a shocking, ethereal performance most straightforwardly classified as hyper-pop. Her stage presence was staggering as she plunged between each corner of the stage, tugging her hair and kicking her boots. Her lyrics, a stream of consciousness fusion of Arabic and English, were strange and startling, with hooks like: “I’m addicted to living like an American terrorist!” The performance ends abruptly, as Thoom shouts: “Thanks for supporting me through Palestine,” dropping the mic as the crowd cheered… both an emblematic and literal mic-drop. Like a support act should, Thoom’s mystifying energy primed the audience for the dynamism of the headline show.
The piercing sounds of eerie synths begin as Jockstrap’s Taylor Skye apprehensively enters the stage, tucked away behind his usual fort of synths, drum machines and keyboards. His counterpart, Georgia Ellery, smiles at us excitably, as her intimate, angelic vocals cut through the playful rave piano and kick of the first track. An immediate introduction to the irresistibly paradoxical nature of Jockstrap’s music. It is sometimes euphoric, sometimes irascible and sometimes dreamy.
With most of the setlist composed of tracks from the 2022 I Love you Jennifer B album, it was no surprise that by the fourth track, — the spacey, acoustic pop banger “Glasgow” — the crowd are hooked and hypnotised by Georgia, bellowing the sexy love-letter style lyrics back to her, as her elated confidence exudes through the crowd. A few tracks later, out of his usual introverted character, Taylor repeatedly prods a lurid thumping noise on his drum machine, destabilising Georgia’s blissful acoustic melody. Someone behind me shouts, “Okayyyy Taylor” mockingly, as he cheekily smirks back at the audience (a rare occurrence).
The electronic harp melodies and visceral, seductive lyrics of “Angst” bring an irresistible tension over the bodies in the crowd. This spectacular tension is eventually released in their ending track “50/50”. The glitchy, breaky club banger elicits a delightfully noisy response from the audience, as Georgia leans over the crowd like a conductor with a bad back… (The stage was way too low for the dancefloor). The performance does not breathe; each track is faded into the next, transfixing us. Sometimes Taylor even gives us a synthy, percussive interlude. This cleverly conflates the boundaries between a conventional live gig and a DJ set. Jockstrap’s idiosyncratic sound blurs the often-stark lines between dubstep, folk, trip-hop, hyperpop, classical, IDM and disco. This creates a brilliantly miscellaneous reception in the crowd, with some people hypnotised, some head-banging, some singing along joyously. This is testament to their success as a (somehow) simultaneously inaccessible/accessible duo.