Joywave made their triumphant return to the Bug Jar on June 29, their first headlining show there in four years. The performance, the first in their intimate The Possession Sessions series, sold out in 45 minutes. A second set was added later in the evening, which also sold out. The excitement was palpable on Saturday evening as fans lined up around the corner to get inside. Most were die-hard fans, longtime supporters of their hometown heroes, with a light sprinkling of first-time show goers.
There were no support acts on this show. Joywave took to the stage and started off the night with the live debut of their new release “Like A Kennedy.” The audience stood in rapt attention during the heartfelt anthem. “My TV’s talking to itself again. Do we shoot ‘em all dead? Or should we let ‘em all in?” Daniel Armbruster pondered in this poignant, introspective song about media burnout.
The crowd went wild when they launched into “Blastoffff.” Despite the heat of the midsummer day and the sweltering stagnant air in the venue, the band was wearing coordinating track suits – all in white except Daniel’s red pants. Drummer Paul Brenner went at the kit so hard that he cut his thumb, splattering blood onto his outfit. Rounding out the alt rock quintet were Joseph Morinelli (guitar), Kevin Mahoney (bass) and Benjamin Bailey (keyboards and guitar).
Armbruster used every inch available of the stage (even when the corners made his mic squeak). His hand movements and sweeping arm gestures whipped the audience into a frenzy as he worked the crowd the way a conductor leads an orchestra. Mid-set, they shared another new song – never before heard by fans. “Obsession” is aptly named. Immediately, we were infatuated with the song’s fixating beat and twinkly synth interlude.
Between songs, Armbruster filled in the audience on recent events, announcing that they just flew in late the night before from filming a new video, dropping the bomb that The Possession Sessions is so named because it’s a reference to the name of an LP, and that the full length album would be out next year. To this last bit of info, some impatient fans expressed their discontent, in the Bug Jar tradition of good-natured heckling. “Are you booing me?” Armbruster shot back incredulously.
Everyone was singing along to crowd favorites like “Parade” and “Traveling at the Speed of Light,” but not as many people were familiar with the words to “True Grit.” The song from their 2012 EP Koda Vista hasn’t been played live often in the past few years. Just before starting “Content,” Armbruster asked the guys in the booth to make the next one “extra spooky.” They delivered an amazing light show, cranking the strobes during the breakdown. It feel like we were in the midst of a stop-motion video.
An avid supporter of the hometown music scene, Armbruster encouraged the crowd to continue to come out to see live music and to support other local musicians and acts, like Ishmael Raps, The Demos, Mikaela Davis, and Maybird. (Fun fact: Armbruster recently produced The Demos’ latest EP If You Only Knew.)
The rest of the show ran together as the adrenaline hit full force. The camera got packed away, and I let myself get swept up in the waves of euphoria. Fellow Rochesterians, friends old and new, jumped up and down and sang along to beloved Joywave hits in unison. The show culminated in a finale featuring “Tongues” and “Destruction.” With a final wave, they made their exit.
The outro playing as people reluctantly shuffled out was the recorded version of two of the songs off the new album, including “Obsession.” Remnants of items from their last album Content were on sale by the door and people were glad to help clear out the inventory to make way for merch promoting the new album.
A second set (also sold out) was slated to start later that evening. The Possession Sessions will also be held in LA on July 9 (sold out), July 11 in Brooklyn (sold out), and November 20 in London. Joywave is also on the bill for several summer festivals throughout the US. Information and tickets are available at JoywaveMusic.com.
Setlist: Like A Kennedy, Blastofff, Somebody New, It’s A Trip, Obsession, Parade, Traveling at the Speed of Light, True Grit, Now, Content, Shutdown, Doubt, Nice House, Tongues, Destruction