Live: JEFF The Brotherhood Want To Go Swimming With You


JEFF The Brotherhood
Rockaway Beach Boardwalk
Sunday, July 31

Better than: Seeing JEFF at the sweat factory known as Death By Audio a few weeks ago.

I have to start this review with an admission: This was roughly my 20th JEFF the Brotherhood show. Part of this can be chalked up to their dogged touring schedule, and part of this is because I grew up in Nashville. I have seen JEFF in crowded basements, seedy dive bars, DIY venues in Brooklyn that you’d swear were only open for one night just to host them, Bowery Ballroom. I have thrown up at JEFF shows, made out at JEFF shows, been kicked offstage at JEFF shows (sorry for that night in particular, friends who were with me). They are probably responsible for a good percentage of damage done to my hearing, or more specifically my tinnitus (which, by the way, is acting up in a major way as I write this) just as they are responsible for recording two of my favorite albums of the past decade or so. In the words of Three 6 Mafia, “it’s a Tennessee thing.”

This abundance of JEFF shows allows me to say with confidence that their show last night was not the best, but to be fair, it didn’t need to be given the setting. The Rock-A-Way summer show set-up by the free-music outlet RCRD LBL seemed to be a laid-back venture: free music on the Rockaway boardwalk, a beer garden, tacos, and a casual Sunday afternoon. After sets by Friends (who I only heard strains of carried out onto the beach) and Kingdom (whose bouncy reggaeton-tinged rap I had a very hard time enjoying—seriously, why does anyone need to cover “Motivation,” which is still on the way to becoming the hit of the summer; don’t touch it), it was time for the Brotherhood to take the stage. Jake and Jamin had been swimming; they climbed onto the tent-cum-stage wearing only wet hair and bathing suits.

Part of the beauty of the setup was the fact that passerby could stop and check out the show; those who did got to see JEFF turn a malfunctioning microphone into an excuse to turn the opening to “Diamond Way” into a 10-minute shred. The scantily clad crowd was being eased into a quick 40 minute set with some good old-fashioned guitar scuzz. The brothers ripped through the best cuts from We Are The Champions and threw in some old favorites for good measure, all while the sun was setting behind them. As the show went on, more and more people paused to stop and watch the two, which is part of why it’s been particularly smart of them to tour so frequently; once you watch a JEFF show, which makes you feel like you’re watching your buddies mess around in their basement while you sneak beers from their parent’s fridge, it’s highly likely you’ll turn into a fan.

The sound wasn’t fantastic, but the setting was; it was a laid-back crowd (this is the first show of theirs I’ve been to where I haven’t seen anyone crowdsurf, let alone mosh), and Jake and Jamin were tuned in to that feeling. “We drove up yesterday to party at the beach,” Jake said halfway through the set, and more than a few times he encouraged everyone to join him in the ocean afterward. After asking for the time and realizing they only had a few minutes left before curfew, they closed with “The Tropics,” as close to a slow jam as these guys can come. Jake walked out onto the middle of the boardwalk like a headbanging Pied Piper, and the night was done.

Critical bias: Read the opening paragraph. Plus, I was there with a good chunk of my Nashville buddies so it was an especially nostalgic evening.

Overheard: Nothing; when you go to a JEFF show, you only hear JEFF. I still can’t tell if I have permanent hearing damage or water in my ear from swimming. Hoping it’s the latter.

Random notebook dump: Really bummed they didn’t play “Mellow Out,” which is slowly catching up to “Bone Jam” in terms of number of iTunes plays.

Set list:
Diamond Way
Stay Out Late
Bone Jam
Heavy Days
(My phone died so I think it was Dreamscape? Help me out.)

The Tropics