The Jar Family @The Islington 17/03/15

4 stars (out of 5)

1

Jar Family TitleOk, some life lessons for music lovers from tonight. First, if you get a chance to go and see a band (even on a school night), do it, because life’s too short. Second, when a mate recommends a band, go and see them. Third, the escalator at Angel station is the longest on London Underground and I’m not getting any younger; running up any escalator is for the young and fit, as I discovered. So, pulling all of this together, my mate Paul in Middlesbrough (closely followed by Graeme Wheatley from The Little Devils) told me I should have a look at The Jar Family, who were playing at The Islington.

The Jar Family is another example of a group of people who have realised that the music business as we knew it doesn’t exist now. A bunch of players and songwriters from the Hartlepool area decided that the best way to get their songs heard was to work together as one unit drawing on the creative input of all the members. After a lot of hard work and personal sacrifice, they’ve come up with something really special which Teesside has known about for a while and the rest of the country is just beginning to catch up with.

The band members are: Max Bianco (vocals, guitar, harmonica, percussion), Dali (vocals, guitar, slide guitar, percussion), Richie Docherty (vocals, guitar, percussion), Chris Hooks (vocals, lead guitar), Keith Wilkinson (bass, vocals) and Kez Edwards (drums). If that sounds like a lot going on, it’s even busier when you put them on a stage, with the look of a Victorian street gang infiltrated by Tim Burgess. There’s a lot of movement between songs as the three singers take turns centre stage and guitars are swapped around, but it’s smooth and professional in a way that reflects the amount of work they’ve put in over the last few years.

The set opens with the latest single “In the Clouds” and rattles through a mainly uptempo set including “World’s Too Fast”, “Machine”, “In For a Penny”, “Footsteps”, “Paint Me a Picture”, “She Was Crying”, “Moya Moya” and “Tell me Baby” before a two-song encore of “Debt” and the appropriate closing stomper “Have to Go”. There are plenty of committed fans in the audience who have made the journey down from the North-East but by the end of the set, the rest have been won over as well by a combination of a varied bunch of songs delivered in ever-changing instrumental settings by a very tight and solid group of musicians, but that still doesn’t tell the full story of The Jar Family’s appeal and why they’ve built up such a fanatical following so far.

There are a couple of things that single this band out from the crowd. The band members interact with their audience on and off stage in a way that creates a shared experience; this isn’t about us and them, it’s about everyone together. The other thing is the songs; they’re accessible (whether they’re raucous or quietly melodic) and the lyrics deal with themes that most of us can relate to our daily lives. When you put a group of people like us on stage singing songs that could be about us, it’s a difficult combination to resist, particularly when the vocal and instrumental performances are so good. I understand what all the fuss is about now.