A quarter of a century is a long time to wait for something that may never happen. Of course, by this point, it’s probably easier to count the number of influential 90s alternative rock, punk and indie bands who haven’t reformed (seriously, it’s just Fugazi and Unwound left, right?) but when its someone as unique as Jawbreaker, it’s still a big deal. Twenty-five years in the making, since their last shows, is going to carry a massive weight of expectation for the many fans gathered to witness Jawbreaker’s triumphant return.
Indeed, there is a nervous energy around the venue and area due to this disbelief that these veteran punks and former emo “kids” wearing their various band patches and shirts, many of whom too young to have seen the original incarnation, are finally going to get to see one of their most treasured bands after all this time. However, there is also a joy in this group of people travelling across the country to share this experience together, predicting they would not be let down.
For the band themselves, this first show on these shores in a quarter decade is the climax of a redemptive arc after the band’s implosion in 1996, following a successful run of shows in the States last year. The dust has settled on their so-called “selling out” with final album Dear You which originally caused the band’s demise. Tonight and this tour is about Jawbreaker receiving the respect they deserve while delivering their obsessive fans an opportunity to finally experience them first hand.
Thankfully, to everyone’s relief, the legendary San Francisco trio did not disappoint. In seemingly classic Jawbreaker form, even this show and tour has had its problems. Initially booked at the much bigger Brixton Academy, tonight’s performance had to be downgraded after expensive tickets and an overambitious capacity led to the venue change. However, none of that mattered once the band took to the stage to perform the opening notes of ‘Save Your Generation‘. The delirium within the crowd immediately hit a fever pitch that refused to let up for the entire night.
While the sound is, initially at least, somewhat quiet, every touch lead vocalist and guitarist Blake Schwarzenbach, bassist Chris Bauermeister, and drummer Adam Pfahler produced can be heard perfectly. The set reaches a particularly high-note when the band kick into Bivouac classic ‘Chesterfield King‘. From there, the especially heart-breaking one-two punch of ‘Condition Oakland’ and ‘Ache‘ from 24 Hour Revenge Therapy really enamours the collected fans.
It is ‘Accident Prone‘, however, that really breaks the room. Arguably the band’s most iconic song, this is the track that defines Jawbreaker as the archetypal “emo” band. There isn’t a dry eye in sight as the crowd desperately sing every word back to Schwarzenbach, who even at this stage seems a little taken aback. The main portion of the set closes on an excellent rendition of ‘Shield Your Eyes‘, while after the encore Jawbreaker’s most well-known song ‘Boxcar‘ sends the theatre into an overjoyed sing-a-long.
Of course, it’s impossible to get everything you want, but it should be respected that Jawbreaker are playing a different set each night. So while it’s a shame that tracks such as ‘Want‘, ‘Do You Still Hate Me?’ or ‘Fireman‘ are omitted this evening, the trio close on their most beloved track ‘Kiss The Bottle‘, leading to absolute pandemonium in the crowd. It is a truly fulfilling climax to an excellent show, one that most assumed they would never get to experience, leading to an overwhelming sense of joy and community between these fans who have been waiting so very long. Kudos to you, Jawbreaker, you killed it tonight.