My friend Constance, an old school friend of Justin, asked me along to the We Are Free single launch show at London’s Borderline (released on Chess Club - a offshoot of the clubnight set up by a member of recently deceased London band Fear of Flying). I’d neither seen nor heard Justin’s music before but by 9pm the venue was heaving, with barely enough room to raise a pint glass to my lips; Justin’s fan-base seemed long established. This is likely due to various shows at Nambucca and the fact that his manager is fellow London troubadour (if we can call him that…) Beans on Toast. At around 10pm Justin took to the stage with a support band, which included a banjo player and a Dad figure à la Mystery Jets accompanying on guitar. As the first song commenced the audience’s captivated silence was palpable, the girls devouring Justin with their eyes, the guys most likely admiring the ease at which his honeyed voice slipped from his mouth. Justin’s demo as Jay Jay Pistolet, Hooked Up On Us, stood out immediately, with lyrics suggestive of past teenage trysts. Constance whispered how he looked much more nervous than his show the previous week at Brixton’s Windmill. Any anxieties on his part seemed to quickly evaporate as Justin relaxed, maintaining an air of professionalism, mystery and appreciation in front of such an admiring crowd. His ability to tell stories through his uncomplicated, unadorned songs seems to come with great ease, something the audience clearly understood, reacting to each song with raucous applause, whistling and whoops which reverberated off the walls of the cramped cellar room. The final song of the evening was This Place Was Like A Maze, a tender account of a day (well, night) in the life of two young lovers in west London, whose foregone fate is riddled with alcohol and drugs. I especially like the final verse and the lines, ‘So I went without my sleep until your car showed up at 3 / I kind of said goodbye and then you hopped across the sea’. Being a south-Londoner myself at the moment, I like the idea that crossing the Thames is akin to crossing the sea (and God, it can feel like it if you’ve ever walked over Waterloo Bridge on a windy day) but you never know, perhaps this lover in question did have a little further to go…
If I’m honest, it’s rare that I hear an artist for the first time and think they’re faultless. So the following Wednesday, Constance and I headed to PureGroove records to see him play an in-store, this time acoustic and to no more than fifteen people. The acoustic versions of Hooked Up On Us and We Are Free are in this video from PureGroove’s YouTube channel.
Only time will tell what will come of Jay Jay Pistolet. Hopefully Justin won’t suffer the same fate as Kate Nash and Jack Peñate with serious NME-induced hype and then sudden anti-climax when someone newer, rawer and more ‘London’ comes along. Hopefully his ability to make pure, modern folk-music and genuinely seem like he’s enjoying every second will remain. And hopefully more artists of the same calibre will come our way too.
Jay Jay Pistolet - This Place Was Like A Maze
Jay Jay Pistolet - Holly (b-side to the single)
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