Jay Som, and The Drums @ Glass House in Pomona, CA
Review & Photography by: Steven Ward
The Glass House concert hall played host last Wednesday night to a glittering double-whammy of sleek tunes, hosting both bedroom-groomed singer/songwriter Jay Som and the perpetual heartbreak of The Drums. Bay area native Melina Duterte, aka Jay Som, opened the night with the slow-burning, melodic noisiness of her dazed narratives. With just two albums under her belt–the lushly dreamy Everybody Works dropped on Friday–Duterte has built quite the cult following, easily packing the Glass House for her early opening set. While her sophomore attempt is slightly more polished in melody, but live, Duterte and her two bandmates mix the DIY fuzz of her early cuts with a lyrical cadence that can make instant fans of even virgin listeners. She’s also a fan and musical cohort with Japanese Breakfast (she has a playlist saved on her Spotify profile with Psychopomp), opening with her not long ago for Los Angeles’ own indie-rock wizardess Mitski–so there’s that.
She’s got the chops and the taste, and you get the feel the Duterte wastes no time in crafting the music she wants to make without mincing any needless words or pomp. Her tunes may be pop in melody and ease-of-listening, but every minimalist line is a poignant dig at existential growth, doused in a progression of drowsy crooning, fuzzed-out guitars, and rabid percussion antics. It’s the kind of music you can wallow in joyful commiseration in with friend and strangers, and in its messiness there drips struck chords of clarity that is owed greatly to the delicacy with which her songs are layered–and out of it there’s an unexpectedly anthemic nature to them. Whether it’s the trotting grace of “The Bus Song” or the dually troubling but hopeful realizations of “Everybody Works,” Duterte takes a grain of her own emotion and manages to transform her tiny personalizations into coyly complex mullings that are unavoidably relatable.
The screams that were given up when The Drums waltzed onstage was deafening, as the sharp shrill of fans filled the Glass House with a shattering pitch. Jonathan Pierce, one-half of the founding duo behind the band and it’s eccentric lead singer, is one of those frontmen that mesmerizes without an ounce of trite absurdity. Tale after tale of heartbreak, desperation, and unrequited love rolled off his tongue as he twirled and swayed onstage to the audible delight of fans. Poised and genuine, Pierce switch-footed from the band’s more upbeat, 50’s tinged surf-rock (“Let’s Go Surfing”) to their more darkly intimate contemplations on songs like “Book of Revelation.” Waving around a single rose he recovered from a fan, despite Pierce’s obvious vocal duties his charm is communicated by the man’s kinetic energy and the fierce sentimentality that comes with it. Throughout the set and especially on crowd favorite “Money,” as fans clawed for that high-pitched yawp, Pierce kneeled at the edge of the stage just out of reach, singing with his eyes glazed over as those electric guitars darted behind him. With The Drums under its roof, the Glass House became less a concert hall and more a backyard party–plenty of beer, plenty of friends–and nice and cozy in our miseries was exactly where we wanted to be.