Overhead outside the Lodge Room: “I always wondered where the cool people in LA went…”
Depending on your definition “cool,” he wasn’t wrong! By the time GUM, aka Jay W. Watson took the stage, the eclectic venue was packed to the brim with handlebar mustaches, overgrown haircuts, patchwork tattoos, and loafers. It was exactly the “indie” demographic I expected a touring member of the renowned psych-rock band, Tame Impala, to have reached with an independent project.
The highly anticipated arrival of GUM was preceded by two supporting acts: a DJ set by the charming Automatic, and a short, synthesized pop performance from the electrifying Joon.
Automatic, consisting of Izzy Glaudini, Halle Saxon, and Lola Dompé, greeted fans entering the Lodge Room with tracks that felt like they were taken straight from a collaborative playlist. With each member taking a turn at the deck, Glaudini, Saxon, and Dompé could be seen grooving to a cohesive blend of electronic, floaty picks from Air’s “Surfing on a rocket” to Gina X Performance’s, “No G.D.M.” The success of Automatic’s chill set therefore, was not necessarily the conventional adeptness at creating intricate transitions between songs expected of DJs. On the other hand, given the band’s own synth-heavy, post-punk releases, the performance felt indisputably intimate in that the crowd was given a taste of the music one would assume Automatic is both inspired by, and genuinely enjoys.
As Automatic was obscured by the manual drawing of a lapis curtain, the DJ deck was replaced by a modular synthesizer displayed starkly center stage, a veritable enclosure of potential energy awaiting activation. And it need not wait long, for the arrival of Joon, marked the beginning of a brief, but highly engaging performance as she lept back and forth from the lip of the stage to the synthesizer.
From bouncing as she modulated the pitch of her own singing voice, to wildly shaking her untamed black curls, to gyrating in an exaggerated Kate Bush-esque manner, Malta-based Joon was the perfect embodiment of her at times celestial, and at other times vibrant and poppy musical creations. Though watching Joon tap out her own melodies was fascinating, the cherry-on-top of her performance had to be her own shrill vocals, ascending effortlessly in shouts or sustains that reverberated through the compact venue.
Following a 30-minute intermission, the small standing space quickly filled, the collective drone of the growing crowd competing with a second Automatic set. As 9:30 P.M. rolled around, GUM emerged at last, Jay W. Watson accompanied by drummer Scarlett Stevens, multi-instrumentalist James Richardson (acoustic guitar, trumpet, electric guitar…), and keyboardist James Ireland. With the explosive introduction to “Glamorous Damage” (off of Glamorous Damage) manifested in Watson’s fingers flying across his electric guitar, GUM ‘s signature thick, glimmery guitar riffs were brought to life, seeming too grandiose to be contained by the humble Lodge Room.
“Glamorous Damage,” all riffs and no lyrics, seamlessly transitioned into “Elafonissi Blue” off of the same album. Sounding straight from an ‘80s sci-fi movie soundtrack, “Elafonissi Blue’s” lush synth pads and sequenced pulses were manifestations of a theme that generally pervades GUM’s experimental productions, but especially 2015’s Glorious Damage.
Changing the pace, “Alphabet Soup,” a cut from 2020 which lyrically explores the sentiments of nostalgia and vulnerability, saw the incorporation of disco elements into GUM’s psychedelia, spotlighting electric keys as an accompaniment to Watson’s choppy vocalizations and syncopated guitar rhythms.
Clearly a fan favorite, “Out in the World” was received by cheering fans as Watson’s spectral vocal projections harmonized effortlessly with soaring synths before concluding with a groovy guitar outro. Transitioning into the dreamy “Science Fiction” off Glorious Damage, Watson incorporated a favored sonic element–the tremolo bar–which he worked just as he had in performing “Glorious Damage.” Oscillating between the shriek of pitched-up notes, and the deep whine of pitched-down notes, Watson broke into a warped guitar solo midway through the song, pounding out complex synth-rock rhythms while effortlessly dancing away from the mic. “Science Fiction” continued to build in intensity until its finale, with Stevens’ clean drumming highlighted as Watson transitioned into a veritable shout.
“Couldn’t See Past My Ego” off 2018’s, The Underdog, put Watson’s vocal range on display, succeeding a soft, acoustic intro by Richardson on acoustic guitar. Off the same album was “The Blue Marble,” a triumph which was fittingly paired with an eruption of gold flecks of light radiating from a rotating disco ball. Astronomically-themed lyrics “pin-balling between the stars,” and “You’ll be reminded that you’ll be fine on your own / Watching the stars” seemed reflections of the space-age sound created by the wailing tremolo bar, hazy synths, twinkling keys, and occasional pounding of the drums.
Following a false conclusion marked by the beautifully drum-heavy “Race to the Air,” Watson and the band returned to stage for an encore. Donning an acoustic guitar, Watson concluded the night with a stripped-down “Music is Bigger Than Hair,” featuring softer vocals and a more delicate playing style.
Being half of Tame Impala, the Lodge Room likely marked a change of scenery for Watson, who one can assume would by now be acclimated to stadium and festival crowds. However, an intimate venue seemed to be exactly what Watson needed to showcase his considerable depth of expertise in music production. His genius on guitar was not easily overlooked 3 feet from the stage, and GUM’s psychedelia-infused rock seemed uniquely fit to infuse every corner of the small venue in a captivating, impressive, and by nature cool performance.
Stream GUM’s latest release below: