Jawbreaker – Brooklyn Steel – February 27, 2018
Photos courtesy of Greg Pallante | gregpallante.com
Out of all of the beloved disbanded cult groups of the ’90s, Jawbreaker seemed like the last ones holding out on a reunion. But that all changed last summer, as the influential Bay Area punks reunited to headline Chicago’s annual Riot Fest to thousands of fans, many of them not even alive during the band’s initial tenure. In their absence, Jawbreaker’s legacy as one of punk’s most sacred best-kept secrets has grown into monolithic proportions. If you bring up their names in conversation, chances are the person you’re talking to has either never heard of them or they are that person’s favorite band. A friend of mine once drunkenly declared that Jawbreaker’s chief songwriter, Blake Schwarzenbach, was his Dylan.
Prior to Riot Fest, Schwarzenbach hinted that there was a 90-percent chance the band would be playing NYC after the festival. And so tickets went insanely fast once this three-night run at Brooklyn Steel was announced, as fans from all over hoped to flock to see the Jawbreaker reunion no one ever thought would happen. Tuesday was their second night in Kings County, supported by local comedian Clare O’Kane and a “surprise guest,” which turned out to be Waxahatchee, a perfect fit, as singer-songwriter Katie Crutchfield has always had the same kind of world-weary emotional detail to her lyrics as Schwarzenbach does. Along with a four-piece band, including her sister Allison on guitar and keyboards, they played a short set running through most of last year’s great Out in the Storm.
A giant Jawbreaker banner was raised, and eager fans could finally rest assured that this was all really happening, as Schwarzenbach, bassist Chris Bauermeister and drummer Adam Pfahler walked onstage. The sold-out crowd, bathed in the house lights, exploded as Schwarzenbach strummed the opening riff to the classic single “Boxcar,” and from then on, the band took no prisoners. The set was mainly comprised of songs from their two best-loved albums, 24 Hour Revenge Therapy and their one dance with major-label success, Dear You. Jawbreaker sounded fantastic as they ripped through songs like “Save Your Generation,” “Jinx Removing” and “Sluttering (May 4th),” like they were long-lost anthems from a parallel world where there was a healthy sense of justice. Schwarzenbach joked throughout that they were filming the show as a “Netflix comedy special,” and with how funny some of his banter was, it didn’t seem too unrealistic.
Jawbreaker closed the main set with a blistering version of “Condition Oakland” and returned to play a couple more. They opened their encore with one of their earliest songs, “Want,” which had the entire crowd singing it’s “Ay-yay-yay-yay I want you” chorus in complete unison. The band then closed out the performance with their brilliant ode to drunken, unrequited love, “Kiss the Bottle,” with Clare O’Kane resurfacing from backstage to crowd-surf on top of the passionate audience. When it was all over, fans poured out onto the streets still amazed by what they had just seen. —Pat King | @MrPatKing