Situated just off Brick Lane, a few streets from the City of London, Rough Trade appear to have hit on a bit of a winner – the early evening “In-Store” event. The opportunity to see a band play a set after work on a weekday evening and still be home at a sensible hour is not to be sneezed at! Especially if there’s the opportunity to do a little music shopping while you’re at it…
Despite the horrific events that occurred earlier in the day in Westminster, life in London carries on. The commuter trains and overground are British standard rush-hour packed. The journey is no more disrupted than normal and the east end is still busy. I arrived at Rough Trade to see that the CD racks have been rolled back to create space for an audience in front of the stage at the back of the shop but that a crowd had yet to gather. A single microphone stand was set up on the stage and Jeb Loy’s electric-acoustic guitar sat half out of its carrying case next to it. Having shot Rough Trade quite regularly for a while I staked out my favourite spot on the right-hand side of the stage and waited for events to unfold.
There were still plenty of shoppers browsing the CD’s and vinyl and Jeb Loy could be seen chatting with fans and old friends alike. It’s clear there’s quite a big turn out of Jeb’s friends and there’s a few familiar faces from other Rough Trade events including James Endeacott of 1965 Records and many people have brought family to see the show. There’s plenty of laughter and a warm and sociable atmosphere and by now a bit of a crowd is beginning to assemble. After a swig of tea from his “Clapton is God” mug, Jeb announces that it’s time to go and “tune-up” triggering roars of laughter and calls of “You’ve changed!” from his friends.
Jeb Loy takes to the stage, the shops strip-lights are dimmed leaving only the warm side light of the stage lighting and the performance begins as Jeb announces to the crowd, “Hi! I’m Jeb Loy Nichols and I’m tuning up!” (cue more laughter!). Jeb’s style of guitar playing and vocals is perhaps best described as “low-key”. It’s soft and gently melodic with a light foot-tap at times lightly beating out an additional accent gently underlining the songs fundamental rhythms. Jeb’s soft southern accent is rich and filled with feeling. Jeb’s lyrics tell stories ranging from the poignant to sparklingly humorous. It’s almost impossible to peg Jeb’s performance to a given genre, there’s hints of country, but as were told between songs, that after Jeb’s Dad was played his recently released album “Country Hustle” he decreed that “…it’s good, but it’s not country son.” Sometimes there’s a deeply funky island reggae beat sitting just behind his music. Sometimes there’s a bluesy feel and some times you feel it’s music that transports you to the steps on front porch of a cabin over looking some Mississippi bayou as the sun sets. It’s definitely soulful music that skilfully blends a broad palette of influences.
It’s not loud music, it’s a delicate thing to savour and enjoy. Every time I depress the shutter, the “ker-clunk” of my camera feels deafening and intrusive – I do not take many shots.
Particular highlights of the set for me included: the song “Katie Blue” off the new album; the wonderful belly laugh from James Endeacott as Jeb announced, “…Where’s James? This one’s for you!” as he plucked the first few notes of “Long Live the Loser”; and the final song of the set where rather than playing something off the new album, Jeb delivered a moving rendition of “Deportees (Plane Crash at Los Gatos)” by Woodie Guthrie.
Jeb’s performance is captivating and I’m looking forward to catching him again on the festival circuit here in the UK this summer…
Jeb Loy Nichols – Rough Trade East 22/03/2017
Article first published Here on Rock at Night.