Jason Lytle at Hoxton Bar And Kitchin

How Grandaddy never became successful is beyond me. Great tunes; intelligent lyrics about love, life and the struggle between nature and technology; a charmingly unpretentious band who gave the distinct impression they were just a bunch of mates who got together to form a band whilst skateboarding, all wrapped up with a slightly shambolic air of second-hand guitars and analogue synths. They sounded just different enough to be unique without being too challenging. Yet the world wasn’t quite ready for their tales of dogs, AM radio stations, broken-down robots and office workers gone astray on activity day outs. Breaking up in 2006, Jason Lytle has continued touring as a solo artist (often taking some of the band on tour with him), but their legacy is slowly mouldering in a forest surrounded by broken washing machines.

Which is what leads me to the Hoxton Bar and Kitchen to watch Jason perform to what can only be described as an adoring crowd. Maybe they all feel the same as me – that he’s an unfairly forgotten genius – and have set out this evening to give him love. Or rather, make him feel loved, as I’m not sure he’d want to hook up with many of the beardy, “I work in IT” crowd here tonight1. At times, Jason appears rather embarrassed by the whole thing; a modest, retiring fellow by nature, he seems equally baffled and scared by the shouts of “We love you!” and “You’re a genius”. Admittedly though, later on, the number of wags in the crowd shouting “get on with it!” increases, to general laughter.

Other than the love, what shines through is that Jason Lytle really is quite special. Whilst his guitar playing isn’t up to the stellar likes of, say, Sam Beam, his knack of writing songs that hit you as much in the heart as in the head is thrown to the fore when it’s just him, an acoustic and the occasional drum machine/sequencer thing. Without all the trappings of a band, vintage synths and all, you’d expect songs like “Now It’s On” and “I’m On Standby” to suffer without the squelchy noises, multi-tracked vocals and power chords, but they come across remarkably well. Always a sign of good songwriting that. Indeed, Jason even makes a joke of the bits missing, one time asking for the crowd to make “a sound like a swarm of bees buzzing around inside a motorcycle helmet”, another time laughing at the crowd filling in the “aaaahs” between his lines. “Hewlett’s Daughter” – possibly one of the finest songs of the Naughties – features a couple of bars of a thrashed acoustic guitar, which fails to break the magic of the song, and when he repeats the trick shouting “Slayer!”, gets the requisite laughs.

It’s a loving crowd alright. New songs, bashfully introduced, get a rapturous round of applause at their culmination. A long story about how he’s going to be snowed in for months which will give him time to write about three new albums is greeted with the response “Good!”. And a couple of the new songs really do sound promising. Older Grandaddy songs are played to a combination of rapturous awe, and then some gentle singing along, until at the gig’s end, a rendition of “(Chilean) Miner at the Dial-A-View” manages to be heartbreakingly poignant and comical, what with the singing along and Jason’s attempts at a female voice.

There’s a surprising amount of old material too, like “Levitz” and “El Caminos In The West”, both excellent, and even the less accessible songs from The Sophtware Slump like “Chartsengrafs” and “Beautiful Ground”. The latter is, as you’d expect, beautiful, with Jason showing off his really rather nice voice. Indeed, I’d forgotten what a lovely voice he has, swallowed as it normally is under echo and reverb and whatnot. Alone with a guitar, it really shines.

At the end of the night, one is left with the distinct impression that, this coming winter, he’ll be holed up in a snow-bound shack, writing new songs with his old acoustic and a drum machine, and occasionally will stop and think “I hope that lot in London will like this one”. We probably will, old chap. The missus had to miss this gig as she was looking after our poorly kid, and she’s very grumpy about it. Can’t say I blame her.

1 Full Disclosure – I work in IT too.

MP3: Everytime I’m With You by Sparklehorse (feat Jason Lytle)

MP3: El Caminos In The West by Grandaddy

MP3: Rollin’ Home Alone by Jason Lytle

Buy “Yours Truly, The Commuter” (CD/MP3)

Buy Sparklehorse’s “Dark Night Of The Soul” (CD/MP3)

Amazon’s Grandaddy Store

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  1. Gary

     /  November 11, 2010

    Great review. I was at the Hoxton Bar, and I bumped into Jason in the street as I was on my way back to Old Street tube station shortly after he’d left the stage. He appeared totally dazed, and revealed to me that he was just about to phone his wife and tell her he’d just played one of the best gigs of his life. He seemed completely overwhelmed by the universally positive reaction of the crowd, and told me that the experience would keep him going for a few more years. Amen to that.

  2. loftandlost

     /  November 22, 2010

    That’s amazing, thanks for posting that! He did look utterly shocked, and I’m glad that he appreciated it. Must be very tough for a musician like him, so clearly talented yet never really got the breaks.

  1. Serendipity « Loft And Lost

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