by H.R. Marshall
You can often tell that a show is going to be good before the band comes on stage. Their is a static buzz of anticipation that electrifies a crowd as they subconsciously connect; becoming less a mass of individuals and more a moving, breathing collective of energy. An audience all tuned to the same note, waiting for the first strum.
I wouldn’t know whether or not that was the feeling before Star Jungle’s first live performance. I was 15 minutes late to the venue because we got pretty drunk off sake and had to do acid in a rusty hippy bus before calling our Uber. But when you are headed to see a band that has never recorded or even written any music together before their first show, which would be an hour long free flowing 100% improvised jam session, punctuality is not paramount.
The first thing I remember is the masks. We ducted into The Casbah waiting to see the familiar faces of solo act singer-songwriters Adam Henry and Jesus Gonzalez along with Hugo Suarez on keys and Malachi Johnson behind the drum kit. Instead we saw what appeared to be 3 futuristic shaman from a futuristic spin off of Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century. Suarez looked the odd ball on stage right, wearing a hooded sweatshirt and jeans. I paused only briefly to asses the situation before realizing I needed to head to the bar to grab another round.
The sounds emanating from the stage were entrancing. The free flowing vibrations that can only be accomplished by musicians who had spent years playing together for absolutely no reason, other than that they just fucking love it. A plan as to what music they would play would have taken away from the danger, the rush of playing from the heart live on stage. A back up plan would have just slowed them down. A set list was out of the question entirely. Star Jungle took everything there is to hate about “music today” and laughed in its face.
My personal highlight of the show came near the middle of the third act (Yes, act. This was as much a theatre show as it was a concert) Adam Henry, on bass, had an idea. Without stopping the flow he leaned into Jesus (guitar) and shared his thought. Jesus lets his guitar wail a strong, long sustained note as Adam wheels away to — wait, that’s not quite it. Adam leans in again. Jesus plays the same note on his metallic, glittery Danelctro with an added dose of wailing vibrato. You could feel Adam beaming in the baseline. That subtle moment set the tone for the rest of the free wheeling show. It was magic.
Sadly I must admitted that I am, to a degree, jaded with the musical era we live in. Sometimes I feel less like I am being entertained and more like I am hearing a sale pitch; each new release is just 1 part artistic expression for every 3 parts ad campaign. But every once in a neon blue moon you (literally) stumble upon something really special, something that stops you in your tracks and makes you say "Holy shit. This Rocks" and leaves you begging for more.
And I am begging for more Star Jungle
H.R. Marshall is an artist and philanthropist from Southern California.