JR JR bridges the distance from Detroit to New York

by Audrey Deng

by Anna Letson
photo by Anna Letson

It’s not easy to get a crowd of New Yorkers singing ardently about another city, but indie-pop band JR JR managed to do just that during their concert at Webster Hall on Wednesday. “We Almost Lost Detroit” is Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott’s victorious ode to their hometown of Mechanic City, which, when sung in the famous New York venue, bridged the distance between the two metropolises. Detroit is a large presence in the band’s music. “We have some of the best audiences in New York,” said Epstein. “This is one of our favorite places to play, besides Detroit.”

Webster Hall, under the influence of JR JR, became an animated work of architecture. At one point, I thought there was a machine making the floor move, when it was, in fact, the bass line in conjunction with people dancing. The concert was an exercise in optimism, a test in how far-reaching the band’s extroverted energy could reach the crowd, and each song proved that JR JR understands their sound to a science.

The commentary running throughout the concert made for an amusing history for the band, establishing the solidly jokey image. For instance, “Morning Thought,” one of the band’s first songs, caught aflame in New York cabs everywhere. Epstein recounted the bizarre experience of hearing the band’s song in this unexpected context. Playing “Morning Thought” in Webster Hall is, undoubtedly, a rite of passage.

They ensured there was no lull in the set list, maintaining a steady rumble of sound between songs to sustain the crowd’s level of energy. Even the slower, more tender songs, had a resonating beat. An staging element which helped the band maintain their energy with the crowd was the lighting; JR JR embellished the stage with huge block letters “JRJR,” which would serve as the only stage ornamentation. The graphics that were projected from the letters were impeccably paired with the set list. For the song, “For my Brother” (dedicated to Zott’s brother), video clips of kids running in a green field engendered a sensation of hazy nostalgia which suited the equally nostalgic nature of the song. JR JR uses electronics in music and lighting with technical and creative finesse, without making the technology distracting.

JR JR will be back in NY on Monday, Nov. 9 at Rough Trade center.

Audrey Deng is Arts Editor. Email her at adeng@nyunews.com

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