It’s been nearly two weeks since I had my socks rocked off at Seattle’s Showbox SoDo, where Jawbreaker (Chris Bauermeister, Blake Schwarzenbach, and Adam Pfahler) kicked off their Dear You 25th Anniversary Tour.
I’m still riding high.
I arrived later than expected and missed comedian Kyle Kinane’s act. Thankfully, not so late that I didn’t catch the second half of Team Dresch’s set. What a beautiful and unapologetic queercore-anti-fascist-hardcore-punk celebration at a most appropriate volume. I will definitely seek out their shows in the future. Jawbox flawlessly executed their classic melodies, through which J. Robbins easily reminded me that he’s a legend for a reason.
And Jawbreaker? They were everything I hoped for.
Of course, if you read my last Jawbreaker article you probably knew I’d say that. I may not exactly read as a fan capable of delivering an unbiased review, but that’s my honest reaction: I still love this band and they proved worthy of that unremitting love.
Despite it being, quite tangibly, the first show of this tour – and by that I mean we got to witness the band work out a few kinks and hear Blake critique himself in real time – these guys proved they still have the heart and chemistry they had way-back-when. Even if they don’t fully identify with the angst of their younger selves, it doesn’t affect their ability to connect with the music.
The thick layer of nostalgic energy slapping against a firm wall of cautious inhibition seemed equally apparent on stage as it was in the audience, and none of us gave a fuck about how intermittently awkward that was. I danced my ass off the entire set!
With one exception. Can we talk about “Basilica?” This song felt as painfully slow as ever and it’s surprising they didn’t consider a live version that injects enough energy to balance out the rest of the set. They appear to be bouncing this song around from show to show, so perhaps they can sense what a buzzkill it is. I’d be interested to hear how it hit as the last song of their encore in San Francisco.
Other than that? Perfection!
My favorite moment came when Blake fully gave into “Accident Prone’s” hard-hitting chorus. He nailed those beautiful chords in such a way that I was propelled backwards and forward through time: a flashback montage of friends and moments that once mattered to me most. I couldn’t help but cry as I belted out the lyrics and, when it was over, I realized it was the emotional release I’ve needed for quite some time.
Coming in at a close second is the moment I heard the first notes of their final song of the night: “Kiss the Bottle.” For some reason, I felt that they were as likely to play that song as they were “Caroline” (which is to say, I didn’t think there was a chance at all). But they did. And, it was perfect.
Since the show, my days have been infected with thoughts on how I can get myself to another leg of their tour. Spare moments in the evening have me looking up YouTube videos and reviews of each show that passes.
I try to stick to independent blogs and fan posts, since there’s a disappointing number of gutless mainstream articles to be found. It’s as if the writer doesn’t want to be pegged with an opinion of a tour that has yet to prove itself. So, they pump out a cautious blend of praise and exhaustive focus on the age of the band and the audience (and an odd opinion on the audacity to sell merch at a comparable price). Oh yeah, I’m looking directly at you, Robert Ham.
“Stretching a vintage Hüsker Dü shirt over one’s soft body and chanting the lyrics of “The Boat Dreams from the Hill” is a gentle pump of the brakes on an otherwise bumpy drive to oblivion — something to be reminded of while staring at the $50 commemorative poster on the wall.”Robert Ham, SPIN Magazine
With all due respect, you’d be hard pressed to find individuals in the audience that actually fit this hot take, because the bulk of us who still get a kick out of busting out lyrics like Boat’s “missing fishy flutter on its rudder” are more likely fully engaged in the moment. We’re enjoying the irony of our existence, not trying to distract ourselves from the banality of it (we embraced that long ago).
That reminds me: if you do see these guys on tour, do yourself a favor and buy the $26 heather gray “When it Pains it Roars” t-shirt. It has a super comfy vintage tee feel and flatters even the softest bodies among aging alt-rockers.
Judging by the authentic reaction from Jawbreaker fans, this tour is only getting better by day, and the setlists are proof of that. It seems as though the band is increasingly feeling their roots with a solid degree of certainty that people are showing up to celebrate the tour, not turn their backs in protest.
They even played “Parabola” (Bivouac, 1992) at their March 24th show at the Fillmore in San Francisco (and I write that with a jealous lump in my throat).
Speaking of setlists:
Showbox SoDo (Seattle) March 18th, 2022
- Save Your Generation
- I Love You So Much It’s Killing Us Both
- The Boat Dreams From the Hill
- Accident Prone
- Lurker II: Dark Son of Night
- Jet Black
- Sluttering (May 4th)
- Bad Scene, Everyone’s Fault
- Unlisted Track
- Condition Oakland
- Kiss the Bottle
And, so it seems, this anniversary tour successfully brings to an end to an unfortunate chapter in Jawbreaker’s history and opens to the door to new possibilities. The band has proven they’ve got nothing to regret about Dear You and the fans have proven they’re willing to show up on whatever terms the band insists.
Honestly, my hope beyond hope is that these guys end this tour on excellent terms with a mutual desire to release a whole new album. I wouldn’t mind at all if they wanted to retire on my nostalgia.
♥ – Bicentennial Bébé