Show Review: An Eclectic Neo-Soul Thriller with JUNGLE

The British 7-piece, modern soul collective, JUNGLE, hasn’t released much of anything since their self-titled debut on XL Recordings in 2014.

But they are on tour, finishing up the run last night in Los Angeles with a sold out show at El Rey. This was the fourth time I’ve had the pleasure of watching JUNGLE grace the stage and they did not disappoint. The group has a distinctive sound – groovy, catchy and upbeat, yet mellow, layered and lush at times. The founders, Tom McFarland and Josh Lloyd-Watson, coin it something in the vein of 70’s mid-tempo funk. Most tracks are heavily focused on the bass and drum groove, complimented by nature sounds, wildlife noises, sometimes yelps and sirens, and almost always with 3 to 4 part harmonies in marvelous falsetto.

If I had one word to describe this show, it would be “refreshing.” I remembered how great live music can be, how influential and beneficial it can be for the soul. Maybe, I’ve been jaded by attending too many concerts in the over-saturated LA scene. But for the first time in a long time, I stepped into a clearly excited crowd. Fans came early and politely packed themselves in tight awaiting the lights to go down. When they did, there was an uproar, louder and more genuine than I’ve heard in a long time. It was clear that LA loved JUNGLE. Their fans came out to party, because they had emotional attachment and deep love for these songs they’d been grooving to for 3+ years now.

The stage was full with the 7 member crew, not to mention the slough of different percussion instruments, synthesizers, guitars, etc. The band moves around the stage, often trading off instruments from song to song. From start to finish the band never skipped a beat. They offered a kaleidoscopic of funk and soul, keeping fans engaged and in awe during the lows and the highs. The extended ambient intro to “Platoon” lead way to an explosion of cheers when they dropped to silence and lead in with the notable “oooh, oooh, ooooohhh” vocal melody. After that they kept it rolling, with the “The Heat.” The set was littered with a handful of new material, most of which I couldn’t get the name of with their British accents trying to speak above the lively crowd. They closed the show out with the rowdy hit, “Busy Earnin.’”

JUNGLE is a band that goes above and beyond in their performance. Seeing them live is indescribably exciting – an experience that leaves you with good feelings and fond memories for each time you turn on their record in the future. If you enjoy their self-titled record, catching them in concert is not to be missed. I don’t have any word on when new music will be out, but I do know that the new record will be phenomenal.

photo by: background: Khánh Hmoong/Flickr