I know, growing up as a kid in Mississippi, I always had a certain degree of envy for those white-blanketed landscapes existing in the cinematic worlds of so many films. I thought igloos would be fun to build, snowball fights would be the best, and that if I just had one nearly-white Yuletide, that my life experience would be more complete.
Sure, there’s something beautiful about watching sheets of white pour down from the heavens, waking up in the morning with a foot of snow piling up at your door, and laying around inside with glasses of wine and hearing the wind whistle outside. But then you walk outside, and wetness seeps into your shoe, you trip on the ice underneath the snow, and some idiot fool nearly runs you off the road because they thought, “why of course my BMW can be driven at the same speed in a blizzard as in sunshine!”
It’s not to say that everything was horrible. Snowboarding down the side of the U.S. Capitol? That was good. A blizzard-drenched drive to Ben’s Chili Bowl? You might call that epic.
But eventually everything turns brown and frozen and gross, you spend a few hours shoveling, and then things get cancelled.
Like the second Delta Spirit show at DC9.
Lame snow…. laaaaaaame.
So, the same weekend that Scotland’s mother came to visit, Scotland’s high school took over the Rock and Roll Hotel.
Well, not literally her high school, but the rosy-cheeked lads of We Were Promised Jetpacks don’t look that far removed from detention bell days.
“NEED PROOF THAT Scotland knows about movie-script beginnings? Turn back the clock to 2003 and look in on the barely legal members of We Were Promised Jetpacks working through high school in Edinburgh.
“We were just playing in our drummer’s attic, playing covers and mucking about,” said bass player Sean Smith. “We didn’t think of it as starting a band.”
But an announcement went up at Craigmount High School for a — cue dramatic theme — Battle of the Bands, and We Were Promised Jetpacks formed.
“It was a stupid thing,” said Smith, laughing. “We had a crazy teacher called Mr. Vassling, like a guy you would only see on a stupid TV program, and he put on these gigs called, ‘The Vass Cup.’ You’d have tables down the front as barriers and teachers as security guards.” Washington Post Express
It was a late Saturday night show, on the eve of St. Valentine, and I ended up nursing a PBR by myself (because no one apparently will bother to go spontaneous on a Saturday night to a show… laaame contact list, laaaaaame).
First: Bad Veins Hadn’t heard these guys before the show. They rely on a pre-recorded backing tracks, one fiery drummer, and a languid lead singer/guitarist whose voice couldn’t be considered the strongest. It was interesting for a song or two, a bit watered down, lacking much of that whole thing called originality.
Second: We Were Promised Jetpacks have high, high upside.
They’re an endearing, sweatshirt-wearing lot. Shambling out on the stage and peering into the audience, the boys in WWPJ looked slightly confused at the sold out crowd packing the floor.
The boys don’t say much when they’re on-stage. Someone yelled, “Say something Scottish” and lead singer Adam Thompson just laughed and said, “Oh, go f-yourself.”
But when you’ve got a sound like the Jetpacks, you don’t need to talk much. From the opening strains, the momentum started building with the slow roll of cymbals and the crackling strain of the distortion.
There are bands who need curtains to create gravitas and drama- Jetpacks create their curtain of noise from the very start. That whole “wall of sound” description gets tossed around far too quickly, but Jetpacks are one of the few bands who operate behind that barrier easily.
Distortion isn’t a crutch, it’s like breathing for these boys and when Thompson steps back from the microphone and lets loose a mighty howl, the stage is consumed by a sonic fury that’s fearsome to behold.
Jetpacks operate on two levels, epic and above-ordinary. The band ran through most of their first album and part of the new EP, and when they hit the singles, “Thunder and Lightning” and Quiet Little Voices” the place erupted.
There was a gaggle of polo shirt-wearing drunk lads belting out the words to every song and chanting “Aberdeen” throughout the set. Nationalism is infectious in these types of spaces.
The boys in Jetpacks can flat out play. Operating tight and terse on-stage, every cue is nailed and the intensity gets ratcheted up with each chord change. The only weakness is songwriting. If you didn’t have the roof-blowing songs like “Lightning” and “Voices,” you wouldn’t know what you were missing, but coming off of anthems, standard tracks seem a bit of a let down.
These kids are young though, David Malitz made the comment that these guys were in their “Boy” era, and that it’d be interesting to see what they sounded like when they finally wrote their “Where the Streets Have No Name.”
In the blog-pushing new world of music, we forget that bands need time to mature, to grow and that you’re not really supposed to change the world with your very first album. I’d take a slow burning band that finally ends up producing a barn-burning album worth multiple listens over any flash of the week.
It was a sweaty loud set, no encore, that left the crowd hungry for more when the wave subsided to a ripple.
You’ll be hearing from these guys for awhile.
Yes, I know I’m still incredibly behind with concerts… it’s coming.
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