Your Last Chance To See Legends
It is a common misconception amongst the "alternative" crowd that London punkers Jesse James are in fact a ska band. They're not. Whilst they do pack out their sound with an accompanying horn section – it's just that - accompaniment to their otherwise punk-by-numbers approach. This isn't to say that Jesse James are a predictable, boring band however; their hard work, knack for catchy tunes and use of their aforementioned brass instruments provide them with an edge over other groups pigeonholed in the punk genre. It is to the detriment of British punk as a whole then, that Jesse James plan to split in the near future, however with the flyers proclaiming this performance penultimate to Jesse James' "last ever UK tour," I was eagerly anticipating seeing them playing their particular brand of punk rock one last time.
I almost didn't think it was going to happen though. When, in 2006, Jesse James announced their plans for a final tour, in support of their final album "The Assassination of ...," it was cancelled at the last minute due to booking mistakes by the band's manager – most members still held down day jobs, and all their gigs were due to take place on weekdays! With such a relatively simple error curtailing their tour mere months ago, the pessimist inside left me with a nagging doubt as to whether tonight's event would actually take place. Thankfully it did, and I slunked into the Joiners berating myself for my lack of faith.
After entering the venue and buying a token beer from the bar, I made my way to the stage to watch the support acts play. First up were local ska outfit, Kids Can't Fly, a band whom I've had the pleasure of seeing a couple of times during my stint in Southampton. Whilst their set wasn't up to the same standard as when they supported Spunge last year – disorganisation, untuned guitars and cringe-worthy banter marred their performance – they were okay, and served their purpose and whet the crowd's musical appetite. The Exposed followed; a slice of polished Portsmouth punk who belted out a tight set, much to the delight of their travelling fanbase. Sounding like a cross between Anti-Flag, Bad Religion and Millencolin, the Exposed displayed that 'spark' that suggests a band has bigger things on their horizon. The final support act came in the guise of Pickled Dick, a band whom I can only describe as 'Blink 182 meets the Bee Gees' in light of their liberal three man harmonising set to a pop-punk backing. Playing an even mix of tracks from their debut LP, 'Panda-Moanium', and their newest EP, 'Exercise Your Demons', Pickled Dick received a rousing reception from the crowd who quickly warmed to their unique style. Soon after the support had finished, the area surrounding the stage began to pack out in anticipation for the headliners, Jesse James.
Opening with 'Empty Tank', a prime example of Jesse James' horn-infused punk sound and the first track from their debut album 'Punk Soul Brothers', the band immediately showed why their imminent break-up is such a loss to the punk scene. Exciting, energetic, enthusiastic and a plethora of other overused adjectives can be used to describe their performance as the audience danced away to the infectious brass intro. Following the obligatory chat with the crowd the band steamed into two well known tracks, 'Hills Vs Mountains' (in which vocalist/bassist Dko forgot the lyrics mid-song – it's nice to see these musicians are human too!) and 'Black Sheep Generator', both songs whipping up the rampant crowd into a frenzy.
Playing like a band with over 500 live performances to their name should, Jesse James continued waltzing through their high intensity set with ease – even taking time out for some friendly ribbing of Pickled Dick's harmonic style. Towards the end of the set, the band produced the two biggest songs from their repertoire, the fetish themed 'Shoes' and the infamously banned 'Dear Jesus' which, as one would expect, caused the floor to erupt in a mass of wild dancing and raspy sing-a-longs. Throughout the gig the crowd had pleaded with the band for these two hits, and were not disappointed when they were delivered.
Not content just yet, some older members of the crowd began to call for 'Elephants', a song hailing from the band's debut. Admitting to not even listening to the track for "about four years" Jesse James were cautious, but succumbed to crowd pressure and played it anyway. To their credit, it was performed without too many errors; their reward was the biggest cheer of the night. Choosing to end on a high, the band finished with 'Freefall', an upbeat number, again, from their debut LP, before disappearing to the merchandise desk to talk with the fans.
Though Jesse James may never grace Southampton's stages again, there are still plenty of chances to see them across the country before they eventually split in May – and I fully endorse seeing them live if you get the opportunity.
Check out – a blog made after the gig by band member Ben.