If someone had told me back in January that one of my favorite albums of the year would come from a trap-pop group from Detroit, I probably would have rolled my eyes. Here we are more than three quarters of the way through 2013, and Wormfood by Jamaican Queens is still hanging tough in my Top 25 more than 6 months after its release. It’s totally different from anything else I’ve heard this year, and I can’t wait to hear what they do next.
I’ve been following the band since the first time I heard the record. They’ve been touring pretty much non-stop since the spring, hitting Chicago something like 8 times since March. I’ve had bad luck with their shows up until last weekend, either getting sick or having another commitment to deal with that kept me away. I’ve been dying to see their live show just to see how they pull off the sound and they definitely didn’t disappoint.
The set was super short, sandwiched between the opener Mister Suit and headliner Houses, the band Jamaican Queens has been supporting so far this fall. It was maybe just barely a half hour of music but that was enough to satisfy me. The crowd, at least the ones up in the front near me, were really into it. I don’t know how they’re doing outside of Chicago, but they’ve cultivated a nice following here.
They managed to get through most of the songs off Wormfood, including “Water,” “Kids Get Away,” “Can’t Say No To Annie,” “Caitlin,” and “Asleep At The Wheel.” Adam broke a bass string at one point and had to stop playing for a few minutes to put a new one on, so Ryan played a new song that he said he’d just written. As usual in a time like this, a lot of people went to the bar to get beers or were just talking among themselves. I paid attention and thought the song was really good. I think it’s called “Bled To Death,” but that’s totally a guess.
I was a little surprised by how active Ryan was on stage. The music seems like it would lend itself to someone standing in front of a computer screen and manipulating sounds without ever looking out at the audience, which wasn’t the case at all. Most of the time it was Ryan on acoustic, accompanied by bass and drum. Every once in a while either Ryan or Adam would have to mess with something on their little machine, but for the most part it was a lot of live instrumentation and singing. The vocals were also better than I expected. If you’ve heard the record you know there’s a lot of effects in the vocals, and they pulled that aspect off really well. I figured it would sound kind of muddled, but it was really clear.
Overall I was impressed with how well Jamaican Queens were able to recreate most of the record in a live setting. A bit disappointed that they couldn’t play longer, but leaving me wanting more just means I’ll be back to see them again. Based on current trends, I shouldn’t have to wait too long for them to return. When they do, I highly recommend getting a ticket for yourself and all your friends-Jamaican Queens might just be your new favorite band you just haven’t discovered yet. In the meantime, you can pick up Wormfood on the cheap from their Bandcamp page.
If you’d like to see more pics I took at the show, take a look at the album on Facebook (mostly black & whites)