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Tigers Jaw & Foxing @The Fighting Cocks 7/8/15

Tigers Jaw & Foxing @The Fighting Cocks 7/8/15

By: Ash Moore, Photography: Ruth Rossiney

The hangover is still imminent from the drunken teenage emo years. It seems it was high jacked, pushed into the forefront and gradually became more abhorrent as time went on like some angsty Jekyll and Hyde lurking in the shadows, crying. Nonetheless the real grass roots emo has always been here and has never really departed. The likes of Daylight, Sunny Day Real Estate, Pavement etc. were prominent college garage rock during the 90s through to the 00s. But there seems to be more now than ever a sense of a revival, a stripping back of eyeliner, skinny jeans and ridiculous haircuts, and a wealth of really great songwriting is emerging from the ashes.

The hangover is still imminent from the drunken teenage emo years. It seems it was hijacked, pushed into the forefront and then gradually became more abhorrent as time went on like some angsty Jekyll and Hyde lurking in the shadows, crying. Nonetheless, the real grass-roots emo has always been here and has never really departed. The likes of Daylight, Sunny Day Real Estate, Pavement etc. were prominent college garage rock during the 90s through to the 00s. But there seems to be—more now than ever—a sense of a revival, a stripping back of eyeliner, skinny jeans and ridiculous haircuts, and a wealth of really great songwriting is emerging from the ashes.

Friday 7th August saw gloom punk outfit Tigers Jaw, supported by Foxing and Great Cynics, grace the sweatshop basement of The Fighting Cocks in a sell-out show. It has been a turbulent couple of years for Tigers Jaw, whose inception was in 2005, they have seen a major line-up change with three members departing the band, leaving just two remaining; lead guitarist/ frontman Ben Walsh and organist/ frontwoman Brianna Collins. 

Foxing were meant to be the support act but had a following of their own. They are a five-piece from St Louis, Missouri; their lucid and atmospheric soundscapes gave me haunting nostalgia. They reminded me of the technical abilities of math rock bands such as This Town Needs Guns and the technical post hardcore masters Dance Gavin Dance, but they were also a phenomenon of their own. Fronted by the unassuming but definitely commanding Conor Murphy, the whole band’s movement was in time with one another. They were theatrical in the way they performed, all from the gut, swinging their guitars, with Murphy wrapping the mic lead round his neck like an umbilical chord in the womb.

Murphy played a trumpet throughout the set like the bugle of a messenger and used a sampler with presets of sounds that were reminiscent of Burial and Flying Lotus, clicks and liquid sounds added to the atmosphere created by the rest of the band that you could cut with a knife. Murphy’s vocal range is vast—from very delicate to extremely brash, and the intricacy of the guitar work is very well rehearsed and put together. The songs themselves are big bold compositions and are beautifully arranged. Medic was a stand out track of the performance and is also the single released from their 2014 album The Albatross. Murphy told me at the start of the show that the landscape album artwork was an iPhone photograph taken by photographer Kevin Ross, which blew my mind as much as the music.

Tigers Jaw have a humility about them that is warming—it’s as if you are watching your favourite hometown band in any city you happen to go to. They make a dynamic duo, Ben and Brianna. They look like binary opposites but have come together to create an album that is listenable from start to finish, which is a rarity these days and especially as this is their first album the two of them have co-created. They played a varied set with material from their newest release Charmer (2015) and delved into their discography to pull out a few gems.  

The set kicked off with 'Cool' from Charmer and Ben’s nonchalant style is prominent throughout his songwriting and his performance. Lyrically this song is poetical, but is summed up in one line: “It’s a cruel world, but it's cool”. His singing style is effortless and dragged out but it always makes me feel like I should be driving down a highway with the roof rolled down.

They pulled some real home-based fans with people diving, chanting and thoroughly enjoying themselves. 'Between your Band and the Other Band' from the self-titled album (2008) was a highlight and really showcased the gelling of Ben and Brianna, her vocal harmonies accompanying his vocals with the added dimension of the organ adding to the fray.

One of my favourite songs from the album is ‘Frame You’. This kicked the crowd into frenzy. Again that organ gave it a down-tuned, lo-fi sound but the guitar work kicks in halfway through as does the chorus. It's hard hitting lyrics like ‘And I started this fire and I watched it burn to the ground’ that makes a crowd go wild. And to all us tormented souls, is very relatable.

Another stand out song of the performance was 'Chemicals' from the self-titled album. This bought the pace down to a drone, it was a fan favourite and had everyone in the room singing the lyrics, “You are everything and I am nothing.” Brianna also did a solo piece halfway through the set that took the edge off; it was a good showcase of her organ musicianship that sometimes got lost in the sound as a whole.

What I love about this kind of music, and Tigers Jaw in particular, is that they are so talented yet almost don’t realise how talented they actually are. They played an 18 song set with an encore at the end. Most bands you will pay the Earth for and get 8 songs with no interaction with the crowd, it was an intimate personal gig with a sell-out crowd. They’re just good, honest-to-god songwriters, so let's have another album Ben and Brianna!