The now defunct Red Palace hosted Javelin the last time they passed through town. That was a night to remember for me… It’s too bad I don’t really.
I remember wearing suits with a couple of friends (because why not) and dancing hard. I remember there was a girl whom I had just started talking to who didn’t talk to me again after that evening, and I remember sprinting in the night at full force. Not really sure how that last one came about, but it was an epic evening to say the least. Having Javelin come back to play at the Black Cat’s backstage felt sobering and also filled me with excitement. Their new album Hi Beams is a departure from their previous sample-driven music and is way more pop album proper.
Nearly every beat that Javelin hit signaled a floor strobe light! George Langford was a human drum machine surrounded by pads, sequencers, a snare, and a cymbal, crashing the shit out of all of it. Meanwhile, Tom Van Buskirk, aside from being a super smooth diva-voiced bearded man, played bass and reverb kazoo. They also had an interesting pink instrument from a Brooklyn-based peddle manufacturer that was described to me as a bass synth. Van Buskirk held it in front of him with both hands and fiddled with buttons reminiscent of an accordion. For how tight they play together, you wouldn’t know it just by looking at them. Energy poured out of Langford and bounced off the cool from Van Buskirk, creating another level that soared beautifully.
The collage of vintage stereos that lined the back wall of the stage at the Red Palace show was back this time around but has grown into a ceiling-high sculpture for the backdrop of Javelin’s show. This collection of old tape decks really resonates with the mish-mosh styles the band throws against the wall for their set. They opened with a song off Jamz n Jemz, “Lindsay Brohan.” It was interesting for them to start with an older song, especially with their new material being so different structurally, but they managed to morph it into something that works with all the new songs that were played.
This became a trend—grab-bagging cuts from their catalog and utilizing them for any particular moment. It leads me to question how often Javelin revisits their material and if they actually consider any of it finalized or complete. After listening to their new Hi Beams songs performed, tunes like “Light Out,” with the lyrics “Look around you know you’ve made it,” seem almost autobiographical.
Since Javelin is shifting more towards straight-ahead pop, it was first opener Jamaican Queens (before a nice “producer interlude” of danceable electronic pop from Raliegh Moncrief) who were filling that void of weirder pop. Self-described trap poppers from Detroit and approved locally by the Paperhaus, their sound was a mix of electronic beats, acoustic guitars, melodic singing, and fuzzy bass.
At times the guitar would be pounded into a beat, and the bass would take the lead. Bass player Adam Pressley also had a single sample pad that was utilized simply for hi-hat smashing, and he wrapped the strings of his bass with the drumstick. Near the end of their set, his strap broke, and he had to cradle his bass in his arms and hammer out the last two songs, which was pretty impressive.
Lead singer Ryan Spencer is the front man of this three-piece outfit, Jamaican Queens. It’s especially interesting watching the delivery of his singing. There’s tightness and restraint to the way he vocalized, like a subtle whiplash. He used sparkling synth samples that matched the glint of his diamond bracelet under his flannel shirt cuff.
There was a certain coyness in the way all of Jamaican Queens songs were presented, which was contrasted when I ended up hanging out with them until five in the morning at my place in Petworth because they needed a place to crash. If Javelin have already “made it,” Jamaican Queens have the potential and the opportunity to make it as well.