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Gig Review: Jake Bugg, April 23 @ The Hi Fi

Words by Scenewave Australia - Published on April 28, 2014

The last time Jake Bugg appeared down under was for 2013’s Splendour In the Grass.  This time round, his visit was in aid of a Bluesfest 2014 appearance and string of shows with The Growl and The Creases in support. Aussie punters were glad to have him back, with all four headline appearances selling out, the last of which we were lucky enough to catch on Wednesday night.

Fremantle garage blues band, The Growl, were set to open the evening, but rather than the crowd being met by the band’s full lineup, front man Cameron Avery took to the stage solo. To make up for the lack of instruments and members on stage, Avery looped vocals and the odd bit of harmonica for background beats. His efforts were engaging, and even solo he managed to capture everything great about The Growl and their rough and energetic blues sound. Still, it was nothing on seeing the full live band in action and I felt somewhat let down.

Brissy band, The Creases, after recording two songs in their basement and never playing a show, signed with British label Rough Trade Records late last year, to a resounding chorus of “What the fuck?” Since then, they’ve been nabbing support slots on big name tours, with the likes of Scotland’s Franz Ferdinand, and now Jake Bugg. I was unimpressed the first time I caught the band live, funnily enough, at this same venue six months ago, when they supported another Brissy band, The Jungle Giants. They were disorganised, inexperienced and their brand of indie rock felt fairly meek. Since then, The Creases have gradually, but surely, improved as a band. Their single, “I Won’t Wait” has more energy and cohesiveness about it than it ever did in their first performances, and I’m keen for future releases from the band. But, despite the noticeable improvement, I’m still not sure whether they’re deserving of all this attention. I mean, it’s saying something when the highlight of your set is you taking the piss with a cover of Tal Bachman’s “She’s So High”.

At twenty years of age, Jake Bugg is, depressingly, the same age as me. But at the end of 2012, while I was wondering what degree to study in order to be best qualified to live off government welfare, Bugg’s debut self-titled record was number one in the UK. Shit ey. Since last being on our shores he’s dropped a follow up album, Shangri La, to similar acclaim. Listening to his music, it’s no surprise that Bugg lists some of his influences as Neil Young, Johnny Cash and Nick Drake. What is remarkable is that, at such a young age, Bugg has managed to capture in his own music, the same maturity that is in the music of those rock legends. Combined with the bluesy fervour of something like The White Stripes, Bugg’s sound has launched him to international success. But watching him on stage, it’s hard to tell; the fame clearly hasn’t gone to his head. He’s quiet, but not shy, and exhibits an intensity when playing that is unlike any I’ve seen before. But rather than being boring, his stoic nature is captivating; he’s just a guy who wants to play music, and he’s damn good at doing so.

He opened his set, suitably, with the opener to his second album, “There’s A Beast and We All Feed It”. From that first song, to the last, Bugg held the audience captive. The set flowed well, spanning songs like “Me and You”, which evoked a surreal emotive serenity, to thumping energetic  blues ballads like “Slumville Sunrise”. “Broken” was effortlessly haunting, and after the few dickheads at the back finished shouting, “she’s not worth it” and “perk up, Jake”, Bugg had the audience swaying, and an orchestra of voices joined him for the chorus in what would have been a highlight for many. Others, no doubt, would have preferred the liveliness of tracks like “What Doesn’t Kill You”, “Seen It All” and “Taste It”. But it was the fuck-you-world anthem “Two Fingers” that really stood out for me. When Bugg left the stage and what is, arguably, his most popular track, went unplayed, there was little question as to whether there would be an encore. Cheered back on, Bugg lead with “A Song About Love”, said his thanks, and then finished his venture down under with the much demanded “Lightning Bolt”.

Bugg’s new EP, Messed Up Kids, drops in two weeks.

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