Friday night saw Jack Garrard bring his one-man band to San Francisco for the final stop on quick journey round parts of the US. A sold out Rickshaw Stop welcomed him to The Bay for a show which was diverse, exciting and very much of our times.
Jack walked on to stage into what looked like a flight deck, somewhat cocooned by his sound machines and a couple of guitars to his rear. No one else. It was visually striking. You expect to the lone acoustic guitarist to be alone on stage, not someone with a sound as big and bold as Jack Garratt’s. Turns out he could create that sound all by himself.
Water early on in the set hit like a mini explosion. Full of raspy basslines and Jack’s gravely vocal delivery hitting over the top. The set moved with power, only pausing for Jack to gather himself after each song self-confessing he was a bit fatigued after the intensities of touring the past few weeks. A little bit off dub-step here, a sprinkling of DNB sounding bass there it was a set that felt like it was paying homage to the defining moments of recent dance culture.
Chemical was another opportunity to pull in different electronic influences as UK Garage elements bubbled under the radar with a sound reminiscent of Zedd Bias. Another highlight was The Love You’re Given, full of sweeping synths and apologetic keys. On Surprise Yourself Jack took the opportunity to strip it back and deliver something heartfelt.
As I mentioned before, Jack Garratt is very much music of our times. Not in a Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Sex Pistols, or more recently Kendrick Lamar kind of way, where it is a social commentary on the current situation. His is more in the way he creates and performs his music. Standing on stage alone, creating everything himself reflects so much of the current world. People taking courage and initiative to do things on their own. Our times are also very lonely, with young people in particular increasingly facing social isolation and having to go it alone even if they choose not to. Indeed, from time to time, as Jack was switching between instruments he struck a slightly lonely figure. All this energy created with no one on stage to share it with. That said, he did take the time to remind everyone he couldn’t do this in his own shouting out his tour manager and sound engineer mid-set.
It’s also music to represent our times because of the sheer number of influences from across the musical spectrum his sound encapsulated. This kind of sound can only be created as cultures and ideas continually crash together in metropolitan areas. You subconsciously absorb things without even directly searching.
Last summer a good friend of mine, a DJ from Ottawa, spent some time in London. We would spend hours discussing the influence of the local environment on the creation of music. He constantly said it wouldn’t be until I left the UK that I would fully appreciated the magic of the music made here. I’m only now starting to see what he meant. Maybe it is the fact Britain is a tiny island with millions upon millions of people crammed in to almost no space. Trapped in a claustrophobic melting pot, musicians in Britain can’t but help absorb the spices being thrown in by all the different communities walking on and sharing the same pavements. Jack Garratt felt like an embodiment of this idea, little threads of a shared cultural experience woven together to create a sound, and a way of delivering that sound, which represents the world in 2015 on many levels.