Jawbreaker- who first ignited a frenzy when they reunited in 2017 at Riot Fest and then went on to tour throughout 2018- is back on the road again, currently on a week long run on the East Coast with War On Women and an also re-united 90s group, Pohgoh. The tour hit NYC for a pair of shows at Brooklyn Steel on 3/23-3/24. While the 3/23 show was sold out, Sunday was more low-key attendance wise, but that didn’t hinder any of the bands in giving rock solid, spot on performances. Keep scrolling for pics and show review.
Pohgoh opened up the night with a set of emo flavored indie cuts. The band was initially active in the mid 1990s, releasing a split with Braid, as well as several of their own singles and a full length in 1997 that came out shortly after they ceased playing shows. Their song “Friend X” was also the closing track on the very first of the legendary Emo Diaries series of comps on Deep Elm Records, which any eagle earred longtime fans in the crowd would have picked out right away when they closed their set with it. Having been a Deep Elm devotee in the late 90s and 2000s, who owned almost every comp they put out until 2003ish, I certainly perked right up when I heard it, smiling as recognition of a nice slice of the past set in.
Though the band ended their first run in 1997, they are officially back now with this tour and a recently released album, Secret Club. Released in 2018, it is a deeply personal album that touches on singer Susie Ulrey’s life with Multiple Sclerosis, the last 20 years, and what it is like being a re-united band now.
War On Women is fresh off of an Australian tour, having just barely arrived back home before this current tour kicked off, but you would never suspect a single ounce of fatigue or jet lag in them. They blazed full force into their set, opening with the searing rager “Pro-Life?” from their 2015 self titled debut leaving no question as to exactly what this band stand for. Singer Shawna Potter is one of the best front women in punk today, captivating audiences while never giving less than 110% in every performance and the rest of her band mates have the intensity to match her. In a set that was pretty evenly split with songs from their debut and their latest album, 2018’s brilliant and fiery Capture The Flag, they minced no words and took no prisoners, making it very clear their stance on life in America today with every lyric of every single song confronting misogyny, rape culture, transphobia, the brutality of healthcare and a whole host of issues that are sadly all too relevant in the political climate of 2019.
The band will continue their frenetic pace up through summer with North East and Canadian dates scheduled for May right before they embark on a UK/European tour with feminist post hardcore shredders Petrol Girls. War On Women is without a doubt one of the most important bands making music today, be sure to keep your eyes open for when they hit your town next.
Like many fans of Jawbreaker my age (just a shade under 40 if I’m dating myself!) I’m just a bit too young to have caught them in their initial run which ended in 1996, so this was something I had looked forward to for over 20 years. I also sadly wasn’t able to see them on their first shows back in New York in 2018, so this was really a night I had absolutely been waiting for. They have meant so much to so many people for a very long time, myself included, and I was not at all disappointed; from the reaction of the crowd- with a few attendees in the front row shedding tears- no one else was either. Hearing so many of the songs that were such a big part of my formative years played live was an incredible experience. It didn’t even dawn on me that all of the material they were performing was over 20 years old, some songs even 30 years old; they are all still so fresh in my mind and in the mind of so many of the fans, regardless of if they listened to Jawbreaker in the 90s or were even born at the time some of their albums came out. Needless to say, the band effortlessly delivered an intense and remarkable set as if no time had passed at all since their initial years.
The set list was switched up from night to night and touched on tracks from all over their catalog, sure to please even the most die-hard fans. On Sunday they opened with “Want,” the first track from their 1990 debut Unfun and went on to hit B-Sides “Sea Foam Green,” and “Kiss The Bottle” along with tracks from all four of their albums including solid helping of gems from Dear You, an album that on initial release in 1995 was particularly polarizing to long time fans, but now finally has the healthy respect it always deserved. It almost seemed like they weren’t going to play fan favorite “Boxcar,” but they held out and saved it for the encore to the delight of a very enthusiastic crowd. It is truly a special band that can write and play songs that sound as necessary today in 2019 as they did when they were first written in the late 80s and early 90s.
While fans new and old are certainly waiting to see if this reunion will bring new music, it hasn’t been made clear by the band yet if that is something on the horizon. For now they will finish this tour and then head to the UK/Europe for dates with Beach Slang and will also play for the 25th anniversary of Warped Tour in July.