MockJaw's Fire Burned Bright this past Friday

MockJaw's Fire Burned Bright this past Friday

January 24, 2024 in Concert Reviews

by DJ Duderanch

There’s nothing more personal than live jazz, and MockJaw’s passion bled through the music during their single release show at Radio Coffee and Bar this past Friday.

Openers e.artifact and Blakchyl prepped the room for a night of funky fun, as the former brought out ethereal flute and the latter industrial beats.

Most of us came dressed for the 30-degree weather outside, unsure if the show would be inside or not, but determined to show up regardless. As the audience warmed with eclectic jazz, the colorful arrays of hats, scarves, and puffer jackets began to slip off.

I couldn’t pinpoint if the heater blasted all night or if the bass lines themselves escaped the amp in higher temperatures than the cold fingers that played through MockJaw’s opener, “Any%.”

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Photographed by Dina Zeid

Seasoned jazz veterans, MockJaw met thanks to UT’s Butler School of Music. Starting with shows at UT’s Co-Ops and newly established venues like Swamp House, MockJaw have worked up quite the reputation playing dozens of shows since their inception last summer, including historical Austin festivals like Hot Summer Nights and Free Week.

Now, less than a year since their final formation and before any official song release, they’ve been nominated for “Best Jazz” at this year’s Austin Music Awards.

“Runt” solidified itself as a MockJaw classic, consistently finding a spot on their setlist as an all-encompassing ensemble track, and even includes a few lines of Hill’s buttery vocals. It fit perfectly as the second song of the night: if the rapid-fire guitar lick didn’t turn heads at the beginning, the chaotic finale with slammed keys from Keith Galloway and a cacophony of drum crashes from Collin McCord certainly did.

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Photographed by Dina Zeid

It’s during chaos-ridden moments like these where you can see the band members’ eyes glaze over, completely consumed by jazz. Each musician held silent conversations with each other, in a language of eyes and vibrant expressions incomprehensible to the audience watching, ranging from brow-furrowed panic to blissful ecstasy as whatever they silently cooked together paid off four measures in, and on the same downbeat, too.

Dedicated to the city that brought this group together, Hill’s original “Everyone Loves Austin” features their vocals once again, and to the freezing crowd served as a honey-sweet cup of chamomile tea. The band stuns with instruments alone, but when Hill gets to sing, what an extra special treat it is for us all.

Active listeners catch the seemingly incomplete verse couplets sprinkled throughout the lyric-heavier tracks. We can hear it in “Runt” and again here: “My head / this tale / the lines have crossed now / They keep me…”

Where often the recipe we hear uses instruments as adornments to lyrics, MockJaw works almost inversely to this, putting instrumentals before any other decoration. Clearly, they have the skills to do so.

“Man in Country” let Hill’s voice and the excited crowd rest for a second as a slower, more classic jazz tune. The group debuted a new song titled “Ego,” featuring some lyrics once more (“Ego, ego!”)

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Photographed by Dina Zeid

Galloway donned an outfit that perfectly matched their red keyboard and black and white ivories, down to the dark nail polish on their fingers. They graciously took control of every other song, heavily featured in their cover of “Bounce.” Where most ensembles hang onto the drums for dear life, here that metronome paired gracefully with the keys, as each musician frequently looked over at both. Galloway transformed into a quiet leader, accepting and denying loops and endings requested by each member as we moved throughout the setlist.

The newly released single Something in the Water, shortened to “SITW” on streaming platforms, closed off the night in a beautiful final bow covered in raw talent.

Double the length of the official release, Hill’s reimaginings of established lines throughout the song and the beautiful, Yebba-esque delivery of the lines, “There is something in the water / and the story as we’ve told of him / you know that it’s no danger to all of us / when we’re dead and drowned” stole the show at the end.

Each musician worked as the limb of a bigger body throughout the night, the sporadic drums as important as the lightning guitar riffs, the booming bass lines as important as the kooky keys. Even when the spotlight moved across the stage, the musicianship never faltered. There were no breaks in a performance like this.

Follow Mockjaw on Instagram to keep up with their latest projects and upcoming shows!

To watch another live performance from the band, check out their Local Live performance from last semester.

All pictures taken by KVRX photographer Dina Zeid, for more of her photos follow her Instagram here.

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