256551_10151390212031348_931005288_o-610x467– THE DEAF INSTITUTE, MANCHESTER – 

Strange openings: a postponed gig date, no support band and a low-key DJ opus by Jono Ma from far back in the darkness. But these chaps are Aussies mate so they like to do things a little differently. Which is interesting when you consider their inescapable Madchester influences, with cohorts such as The Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses ringing clearly in their repertoire. Jagwar Ma’s opening number is the dark and sexy ‘What Love,’ with a softly throbbing bassline that is reminiscent of Jai Paul’s ‘Jasmine.’ Distorted keyboard chords and some sythnetic weaving create a grungy aria for Gabriel Winterfield’s low, hypnotising lyrics, and all of a sudden we are in the middle of a pulsating dance set. How did this happen?

What is cool about a live Jagwar Ma set is just how big their sound is, which doesn’t come across on a cursory listen of their sweeter album tracks such as ‘Did You Have To.’ The beats are loud and proud, the bassline is pumping and indie heavy, all while being irresistibly danceable. ‘Exercise’ is a funky dabble in electronica, with the lyrics “exercise your chemistry” a big up to the audience. Then we have the rather different ‘Man I Need,’ a fun, anthemic hark back to the Mancunian golden age with a distinctly Australian twist. Throughout every song the band bounce and crash across the stage, rebellious and fiery – it may not be clean, it may not be proper but it’s delicious baby.

‘Come Save Me’ is their scene III, the centrepiece of the evening. It starts off with the good vibrations of The Beach Boys, a chilled, coastal vibe with lyrical echoes of loss and loneliness. Then in steps the Ian Brown influence to shake things up a bit and get things dirty. Repetition abounds on the guitar, on the keyboards and at the mic to create a swirling cacophony that sways the audience on towards its inexorably dancey conclusion.

Towards the end of the set Jagwar Ma bring out ‘The Throw,’ with Winterfield’s airy vocals leading the sway on this lazy chill wave. Beachy harmonies meld and soar through electro pop beats and frills to create something on the verge of euphoric, but not quite, always on the tip of anticipation.

By this time everyone in the room has abandoned their bodies to the rhythm, and there’s no going back now – I can’t even tell you what the last song was because I was riding that wave too.

While Jagwar Ma might not be shifting sonic boundaries, they do what they do with a passionate ease that is infectious. Their songs are bittersweet and lime, but always with an end note of honeyed electric abandon. Initially lauded by Lauren Laverne and currently championed by Zane Lowe, the Australians are taking a serious crack at invading the UK music scene and are already well on their way to being adored.

Bee Gebhardt

A jack-ette of all trades (and arguably mistress of none), I’m an editor, law student, avid runner, travel fiend, wine-guzzler and above all, music lover. Originally from South Africa, I’m now a proud Mancunian. This city is awesome − the only thing I can complain about is the damn weather.