Live Review: Jockstrap @ Yes, Manchester (23/10/21)

The doorman has a cardstamp, and he’s torpidly pressing it’s ‘weird shit’ inscription into our hands. I suppose that’s humorously fitting. After all, we’re arriving to see a duo who first sparked my interest writing a song – ‘Hayley’ – about an underground sex worker documentary. Now, just as boldly, we’re pouring into yes to the sounds of muffled club music, with a man bent over the stage singing in out of tune autotune. His spectators stand far away from the stage, taking this time to go to the merch stand and buy Jockstrap tote bags and Wicked City records. I could only feel sorry for him, realising we were meant to be applauding this art form after 10 minutes, knowing I wasn’t the only person in the audience thinking it was a strange attempt at soundcheck. Jockstrap are a hand band to choose support acts for. Their varied, and unconventional sound proves to appeal to a vast array of audiences, so maybe I just didn’t get it.

Jockstrap themselves open with ‘Yellow In Green’. Dim lights shadow the two, and all that can be seen in low lights is Ellery’s metallic skirt. Her ethereal vocals leave some gawping, and holding their camera phones up, ready to drop, while others give in and let the track wash over them. This is only one side to the group though. The other side, the ‘hyperkenetic’ side, turns the audience into beasts. To newcomers, Ellery takes a handful of tourette syndrome-like words and throws them full pelt at the audience, while Skye electrifies us with buzzed out synths. Even in an age where pornography is so passé, these words often evoke a certain shock value that brings the crowd pleasure in reciting back at the two. ‘Robert’, an evident fan favourite at this point, is a highlight in this method. Ellery has her audience in a trance by this point, her arms waving up and down as if she’s performing sophomore. Skye is reproducing alien sounds, with an 808 that makes the floor shake. The guy next to me has lost all the blood in his face, screaming ‘YOU’RE PROVOKING ME ROBERT. I WANT TO, I WANT TO, BE KISSED, BE THE MASHCHIST.’ in the same broken record style as the eccentric Ellery, who magically seems to loose no sweat. The rest of the room however, has produced an odour that there are no polite words for, merely two songs in.

The duo continue this level of eclectic surprise, which is becoming known in their music. Tonight it’s sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. An entirely new mix of ‘City Hell’ is performed, which all goes well, until the group invite an unsigned rapper, Brother May, onto the stage. An artist whose enthusiasm unfortunately beats his talent. Running around like a hyperactive child, he spends more time shouting ‘JOCKSTRAP. BROTHER MAY. JOCKSTRAP. BROTHER MAY’, then adding anything new to the track, say like Injury Reserve did on the Gritty ‘Robert’. At least he was having fun. The duo’s older, less confident work, surprises too, now vastly improved in confidence. ‘Charlotte’ and ‘Joy’ are a lot of fun and sway the audience into dancing fits. Ellery spends parts of this set balancing between singing vocals and playing violin. ‘Acid’, probably the groups most successful achievement yet – partly due to an incorporation in a Chanel advert – is a set highlight. Skye, who remains relatively quiet throughout the set, now lets out some backing vocals for support while Ellery plays her violin. “You’ve got to help me with this, I’ve got a bad throat”, he just about croaks out before joining Ellery in harmony, who’s now using her bow like a fencing sabre. Her long skirt is dancing as she waves it around. ‘The City‘ is another real highlight. Now a completely visual experience, as Ellery’s eyes crease at their edges as she recites her soliloquy about the false hopes of what city life could be. Only later to be transformed into yet another alien breakdown from Skye. The crowd chant ‘ONE MORE SONG’ , ‘ONE MORE SONG’, as the two leave the stage. Now that’s quite a spectacle.

Photo Credit: David Warren (Instagram: @davidwarren777)