Bands: Jawbreaker, Waxahatchee, Upset
Venue: Hollywood Palladium
It had been some years since I was last at the Hollywood Palladium, seeing The Replacements during their reunion tour. Another punk band reunion had brought me back, as Jawbreaker played the first night of a 3-night stint last Thursday.
Older punk fans represented the majority of fans that night, with a sprinkling of younger acolytes bringing down the median age. Some of these younger fans were the opening band Upset, The four-piece pop-punk group were admittedly surprised and still in shock to be playing the show that night, but thankfully they didn’t let their nervousness get in the way of their playing. Though the vocals didn’t carry well in the large venue, their hooks and a smattering of clever lyrics pushed through the 3 and 4 chord songs to make it clear it was not a fluke they were chosen to open the night.
Waxahatchee had a more commanding presence on stage, with frontwoman Katie Crutchfield drawing eyes with her bright yellow one-piece. Her set started strong with songs from her 2017 album Out in the Storm. Single “Silver” was a lo-fi delight, and kicked off a collection of riff-heavy indie rock that sometimes blended together but was always enjoyable. “Sparks Fly” created a nice break from the rockers, with dreamier vocals and music that swooned instead of churned. The bands’ overall performance was solid, though there was little movement and energy from the band members themselves. The group may be better suited for more intimate venues, but they held the Palladium’s attention.
When Jawbreaker came on the crowd was very ready to welcome back the band after their long hiatus. The decision to open the night with “Boxcar“, one of their most memorable songs, was a brilliant one. Fans were cheering and pumping fists, as if they had been waiting since 1996 to do so. “Jinx Removing” and “Sea Foam Green” also hit the right notes with the crowd, spurring them into crowd surfing and sing-alongs. I personally got the most pleasure hearing “Sluttering (May 4th)”, as it’s always been one of my favorites.
The band kept stage banter to a minimum, with frontman Blake Schwarzenbach making the occasional quip, as well as some sincere thanks for the fans coming out (though included a dig – “We could have used you in the 90’s”). Fair enough – the group definitely had a lot riding on them to be the next Green Day, though it’s always been pretty clear that corporate radio was never going to embrace a group with vocals as raspy and harsh as Schwarzenbach’s, no matter how strong the songwriting or catchy the choruses. There was almost no interaction between the band members onstage, making one wonder if the rift between them had really faded, but as long as they kept playing no one was minding it too much.
The group broke the set up nicely, bringing out Crutchfield to duet on “Ache” – a first for the group and Crutchfield. Neither singer have classically beautiful voices, but their harmonizing worked better because of it. After “The Boat Dreams From the Hill”, the band took a short break and encored with “Want” and their most poetic and poignant song “Kiss the Bottle”, ending the evening after a clean 60 minutes of playing. Some fans left wanting more, but I felt the group were smart not to push their set-list too long. Leave the fans wanting, and maybe the reunion can keep going.