Anyone who contends that rock ‘n roll is dead hasn’t seen Jerry Joseph and the Jackmormons recently. Their show on Saturday, November 8 was one of the most anticipated performances we’ve had at the Crazy Horse. Most people have never heard of Jerry Joseph, but those who have are extremely passionate about his music. He is a hero to the large fanbase of Widespread Panic as he wrote several well-loved songs frequently performed by that band. His identity as a dynamic songwriter resonates most strongly, but he is also a force of nature as a singer and guitarist.
Even with all the hype, we didn’t exactly know what to expect. His band had recently lost a longtime member and added two new ones. Reviews of recent performances had reportedly been mixed. Yet we had no doubts his gritty vibe would feel right at home in the Crazy Horse. From the first notes it was apparent that he and the band were locked in. Despite being a bit under the weather, JJ summoned the full power of his vocal and instrumental luster.
There was this feeling as soon as they started playing like, “Oh…this is how it’s going to be.” The songs have this way of gripping you in their clutches. It’s haunting stuff but also remarkably uplifting. These are more than just songs. They are snapshots of life as seen through a kaleidoscopic lens of emotions. They are well worn like a favorite armchair or pea coat. This is a distinctly unique incarnation of rock ‘n roll. One illuminated by a bleeding soul whom has traveled the path of tortured artistry and redemption.
JJ is one of those guys who has no choice but to be up there on stage. It surely hasn’t been easy. This is his salvation. At the Horse he emanated an aura of peaceful contentment, juxtaposing the sharp edge of his music. Through his smile and body language, it was apparent he was happy on our stage. He and the band got progressively looser as the night unfolded. The first set was rather brief but potent. During setbreak, fans were abuzz about the Widespread Panic staple, “Chainsaw City” with Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” sandwiched in the middle.
The second set got off to a quick start and was in full tilt rock mode before anyone knew what hit them. Many fists were pumping in the air as the sold out crowd roared with carnal delight. The songs had a powerful flow from one to the next. The rhythm section got into a rolling thunder stomp, infusing a solid chunk of the set with a bluesy hue. The most impressive thing was that no matter how heavy any moment was, you could absorb all the instrumental intricacies. Products of extensive experience, the songs were laden with subtle nuances like slivers of light shimmering through the darkness. What could have been simply barroom rock ‘n roll was thusly elevated to an art form.
Make no mistake though, there was some serious wailing going on. The Jackmormons know how to jam, but not at all in a gratuitous way. Every stroke of improvisation was approached with a sincere sense of purpose. Momentum was gained with a sequence of several songs which launched the collective consciousness into aural nirvana. But this was way more than something just perceived through the ears. You felt it in your gut and in your loins. It was soul food. Returning for an encore after a lengthy second set, Jerry and the guys made it clear how they felt about us. Played in a folksy, salt-of-the-earth style, Eric Clapton’s gorgeous “Let it Grow” came across as a love letter to the Crazy Horse and its adoring crowd. When you define ideal synergy of band, venue and moment, this was it.