Words and Photography: Shayna Chabrow
Monday night’s Jay Som show at the Doug Fir felt less like seeing a quickly rising band who released two fantastic albums within the past two years and more like seeing your best buds who you grew up with play in a basement.
Jay Som’s two full length albums, Turn Into and Everybody Works, have been praised by fans and reviewers and the name has been on every recent “Artist to Watch” list. And with good reason. Their lyrics are poetic, relatable, subtle but meaningful and their sound soars past typical “bedroom pop” with dreamy, distorted guitars. As the four-piece went into “Turn Into” the room was filled with a warm, sonic dreamscape. Each member played their own intricate part but they all looked to Melinda to lead them into their next step. Bodies started to move fervently as they went into the uptempo “Take It” and kept on swaying through “Everybody Works,” a song that begins with a stripped down guitar playing under Duterte’s soft vocals and builds into a coated hazy, guitar jam session as her vocals become more intense and backup vocals surround every empty space.
On Everybody Works, “One More Time, Please” is a stand-out on the album for its amount of focus instrumentation, the percussion and strings being incredibly light until the last minute ends with a screeching guitar solo. Duterte and her guitarist played off this in between songs by jokingly having a guitar riff battle, Duterte playing the one from Blink 182’s “What’s My Age Again?” and her guitarist fighting back with ACDC. Highlights from their set included the glistening sounds of “Lipstick Stains,” the danceable “Baybee,” and one of their earliest recorded tracks “I Think You’re Alright.”Before going into their most well-known single, “Bus Song,” the band invited everyone in the crowd to join in during a certain call and response part in the song. They challenged the audience by naming other cities that had been the loudest and Portland easily accepted and defeated the previous challengers.
Frontwoman Melina Duterte’s voice was soft and comforting. In between songs she let out a few sniffles and went to the side to blow her nose. It wasn’t until these moments when it was clear that she was sick as, during each song, her voice was soothing and she played her guitar with full force. Each member on stage laughed and joked with each other and playfully interacted with the crowd. They continually praised their opener The Courtneys, the guitarist actually pulling out his phone to say that he’d received official word that The Courtney are indeed the greatest band in the world.
When Jay Som left the stage, the crowd uploaded and roared and didn’t stop until the band walked back out. It’s extremely rare for a band whose not yet playing for a crowd of hundreds to come back out for an encore. Duterte even stated that they had never come out for an encore before but Portland’s energy kept them from ending the show. Jay Som asked the crowd if they preferred ending with a slow or fast one and eventually made the executive decision to end with two, the last being the jump-worthy “Next To Me.” Watching Jay Som play was fun, magical, and, although it was a full room, their set felt like a personal experience.