Every time I see Gentleman Jesse & His Men, it’s a clinic in pure power-pop. The man’s songs are perfect three-minute encapsulations of everything that’s punchy and catchy. I’m pretty sure the charlie horse I’m currently trying to work out of my right calf is the result of tapping my toes for the entirety of the band’s set last night.
Unfortunately, the turnout for this mid-week show was pretty woeful. There were maybe two dozen people in the Jackpot at its most busy, which is a shame, because I didn’t see a single person in the club who wasn’t enjoying themselves. Gentleman Jesse & His Men’s rock ‘n’ roll appeals to everyone, and how could it not? When you take a song like “Highland Crawler” and play it back-to-back with “Black Hole,” people can figure out where to sing along after a verse or two, and they’re instantly part of the show. This isn’t music that you have to stand back and analyze — it’s instantly accessible to anyone with even the basest understanding of the rock canon. By the end of the first chorus of the first song, you know what’s going on, and you’re bouncing up and down like everyone else.
If I had a quibble with the show, it’d be that it was heavily weighted towards Leaving Atlanta, the band’s most recent album, on Douchemaster Records. I’d’ve killed to hear “She’s A Trap” or “You’ve Got the Wrong Man” from those singles that came between the group’s LPs, but really — when your complaint is that a band didn’t play a certain song, you have no complaint.
Openers Berwanger didn’t take the stage until after 10:30pm, but promptly ripped through a set of tunes that really complimented the music that would come later. While Gentleman Jesse’s tunes are high-energy and bouncy, the music the former Annniversary and Only Children member makes is a tad more laconic. There’s less jangle in their pop, and more room for the occasional guitar solo.
Underneath that laconic exterior, however, lies something hard. There’s no sharp edges on what Berwanger and company play, but there’s an underlying sense of toughness that’s hard to put into words. For all the melody and harmony (all three bandmembers with guitars also sang), there’s a solid base beneath it all that just sounds … tough, for lack of a better word.
They quintet played a track for a forthcoming split with TK Webb that really set the tone for what I think Berwanger is really going for — poppy garage, but with enough of a punk and blues edge to it to really grab your attention. It’s the music that doesn’t remind you of Berwanger’s former acts that makes for the interesting parts of their set — although going “talent show” in the middle of a song because a string broke and the kick drum kept moving was pretty funny.