Written by Kevin North
To anyone going to Coachella’s 2nd weekend this year, I say this: Do not miss Jagwar Ma. Fresh off their highly-acclaimed performance at the first weekend of Coachella, this Australian psychedelic dance-rock band stopped by SOhO in Santa Barbara, CA, on April 16 as part of the tour for their debut album Howlin’. In a venue that probably held less than 200 people, the trio managed to infuse the room with an overwhelming feeling of positive energy that turned the small club into a private dance party. To my ears, Jagwar Ma has the sound of a band that listened to the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and learned all the right lessons about creating psychedelic rock. I have also heard them compared to Pink Floyd. Point being, these guys know how to play and how to make the listener drift off into a very unique head-space. Songs like “Come and Save Me” and “Uncertainty” have elements reminiscent of the Beatles’ psychedelic era, mixed with more traditional pop-rock elements that make the songs light, fun, and easy to dance to. Blending these elements so smoothly is what makes Jagwar Ma unique and memorable, and it is sure to earn them a loyal following.
Before I go too far, I want to be clear, this is NOT a hippy jam band. These guys have tapped into a vein of psychedelic rock that inspires listeners to grin ear-to-ear and rush towards the dance floor. No “special substances” are required to enjoy this music, and you can leave your tie-dye shirt at home (man). This is psychedelic music that you could listen to with your mom without her subsequently Googling rehab facilities in your area.
One revealing moment in the show was during a quick break between songs when the band told stories about being star-struck backstage at Coachella. As they talked about how crazy it was to be in the same room as people like Jay-Z and P. Diddy, it was obvious that these guys are truly enjoying their rise toward fame and that comes across in both their album and their stage presence. It’s hard to avoid having a great time when the band is clearly loving life.
All in all, I expect big things from Jagwar Ma. They have the musical talent and song writing ability to go far. The small Santa Barbara crowd could not get enough of these guys, and the band seemed blown away by the love they were getting from a small city thousands of miles from home. When I see a talented act like this that appreciates its fans and is enjoying its journey, I expect that they will be in festival line-ups for years to come (think Flaming Lips or Disco Biscuits). And I, for one, look forward to it.
Unfortunately, Pop-Break’s state-of-the-art, 3D HD movie cameras were busy this week on another assignment, so here is some video of their performance at Coachella last weekend: