Jovontaes @ WRFL Live 88.1 FM
(March 6, 2013)
(Here's an article I wrote a few weeks ago, which will be appearing in the spring issue of The RiFLe, The quarterly publication of the University of Kentucky's campus radio station. Check 'em out at wrfl.fm)
Having listened to the Jovontaes cassette tape I received for my 15th birthday countless times, I was crestfallen to learn that I was too young to attend most of the shows that the 3-piece band played in the area, in some cases, only minutes from my house. I was overjoyed when graciously given the chance to see them perform live in-studio on UK’s campus radio station, WRFL. It took some convincing, but my mom was kind enough to agree to drive me the hour’s trek on a school night. College radio and live music sit high on my list of favorite things, and witnessing each in action simultaneously was like eating Neapolitan ice cream; getting to enjoy chocolate, vanilla and strawberry in the same bowl.
The station, located in the student center, was a music lover’s haven. Thousands of records, edges worn from handling, lay in repose on their shelves. Posters advertising gigs long past covered the walls from ceiling to carpeted floor. I would have loved to have time to explore the music library, but Jovontaes arrived shortly after 8 PM and began their sound check. A wide array of pedals was strewn about the ground, working as a unit to emit a strange, otherworldly sound. At 9:00, the band was on the air. Rather than opting for an introduction, they immediately plunged into “Killer Pilz”, the first cut off of 2010’s Thief of Baghdad. The crunchy, sludge-riddled tone I was accustomed to hearing on Jovontaes’ albums was replaced by a warm, reverberated atmosphere. Mark Murray’s guitar rippled like a sonic tide pool, washing over Josh Blaine’s trance-inducing bass. Suddenly, mid-track, the track exploded into a primal mess, frontman/drummer Reid Small laying into the drums and howling into the echoing microphone. I find many reviewers describing Jovontaes as a “skate-kraut” band, but I disagree, (Partly because I have no idea what “skate-kraut” actually means). They possess a unique sound of their own, borrowing as much from The Ventures as they do early Animal Collective.
No timbre was left untouched throughout the show. Within the thirty-five minute set, the band rattled off sparse, spaced-out jams, blistering walls of distortion and funky surf rock grooves. Although they played mainly instrumentals, Jovontaes kept me captivated with their constantly morphing sound. “Killer Pilz” concluded the broadcast the same way it began, and packed just as much punch as it did the first time, if not more. Looking back, it seems the smaller, more intimate shows I’ve attended were more exciting than the larger ones, like when I saw Beach House last year. It doesn’t get any better than witnessing a band play live on the radio, as it’s like your own private concert. Many thanks to Jovontaes and the whole gang at WRFL for allowing me to sit in on this show!