JAKE BUGG with ALBERT HAMMOND JR and THE SKINS at Sound Academy, Tuesday, January 14. Rating: NNN
I'll be honest: having recently celebrated my 30th birthday with all the requisite reflection and self-assessment that a landmark anniversary prompts, I didn't need this show. I didn't need a parade of hyper-talented youth rocking the Sound Academy reminding me of how I pissed away my twenties, thank you very much! But I digress.
Leading off were The Skins, a NYC five-piece whose members range in age from 15 to 21. Their half-hour set was mostly comprised of Aerosmith-y style guitar lines and beats, with vocalist Bayli McKeithan showing some serious chops, impressing most when she abandoned the lyrics just to scat, yelp, and whoo at full power at the top of her register. Incessantly hair-whipping and shimmying, she has the frontwoman persona down cold.
Albert Hammond, Jr. came next, and his levels were UP. (Also, he cut his hair? I was not aware of this, and I'm not OK with it.) When his band first let loose with their tripartite guitar attack, I became less aware of the specific notes and music and more aware of the general vibrations running through the building. (Was he going for the brown note?) Hammond was suffering from a cold that made his voice scratchy, which kind of added some charm to the proceedings: his music tends to feature clean, clinical guitar lines and his hoarseness was an interesting contrast.
The not-quite-20 year old Jake Bugg's headlining set was much sparser. His drummer and bassist were each parked far on either side, leaving the young folkie to enjoy the spotlight. Bugg didn't need to do much, and wasn't doing much, to elicit responses from the pit: a smile here, a strum of the guitar there. Around the fringes of the crowd, the relatively sedate performance wasn't quite clicking until Bugg went electric about halfway through, with the reverb offering a nice change to the jangly acoustic tunes.
The band put out a surprisingly full sound, and Bugg's reedy voice was perfectly aimed to float above the mix. An abrupt end to his set seemed to surprise the crowd, but an encore featuring a topical Neil Young cover and ending with the lively Lightning Bolt was enough to spark the audience into raucous cheering once more.