Stepping into the 7th Street Entry at First Ave, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had never heard of JJ Wilde, or her opener, Telamones. After meekly explaining to the woman at will call that I was on the list for a press pass, dealing with a confused stage manager, and finally getting a pineapple haphazardly stamped on my inner wrist, I stepped into the most intimate venue I have ever seen. It was dimly lit, every door was riddled with stickers, and couples sat scattered about the benches sipping on Pabst Blue Ribbon.
All was calm for about thirty minutes until two seemingly quiet guys hopped up on stage. They were midst joking conversation with a couple of guys who loyally stood front and center, with beers in hand ready to rock. The Minneapolis-native duo, Telamones, introduced themselves as Chris (guitar/vocals) and Zach (drums/vocals). They’ve got two relatively concise albums—one released in 2016 called Homebrew, and the other, named with perfect Minnesotan flare, titled Uff Da that was released this year. With witty banter intertwined throughout their set, these two were dedicated to getting the small, but attentive crowd moving. Chris made it clear that they hadn’t performed in over three months, but they could have fooled me.
The quirky pair of besties shared smiles throughout their set and exchanged casual conversation with the audience between songs. They got my sympathy by sharing that they sadly had no merch for us due to all of it being stolen straight from their car along with some of Chris’ equipment. (If you’re feeling generous, there’s a GoFundMe link on Telamones’ Facebook page to help Chris pay for his stolen items.) Big bummer; I wanted a t-shirt. But no matter, after moving through a few of their quickly-paced songs, the two surprised us all with a well-done, angsty rendition of the Nancy Sinatra classic, “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’”. Telamones ended their set by smoothly transitioning into their head-banger of a song, “It Takes Three to Tango” and thanking us all for being there to listen. The two then casually came out into the crowd to get a beer, proceeded to stand directly to my right with a few of their friends, and looked on with the rest of us as the Canadian native, JJ Wilde, and her band took over the stage.
When JJ Wilde’s band came out on stage, they took complete charge by rearranging each instrument to their specifications and even added a personal touch by hanging a string of bulb lights. It was clear that they’ve been doing this for a while, and have mastered the art of making each new stage feel like home.
As the last stop on this three-week-long tour, JJ expressed how thankful she was for the opportunity to go out on her own. As this has been her first solo tour, JJ was thrilled about being able to create her own setlist, add songs on the fly, and just do what felt right in the moment. The last time JJ Wilde performed at First Ave was in February of this year when she opened for The Glorious Sons. Since then, she’s released her debut EP, “Wilde Eyes, Steady Hands,” which features four raw, honest and heartfelt songs about her trials and tribulations as a struggling artist.
JJ opened with “Trouble,” a song she officially released a day before the concert. And, let me tell you, after watching just one song, I knew I was impressed with her. The stage presence she possesses is undeniably passionate, and to say she is full of contagious energy is an understatement. She loses herself in the fierceness of her music so much so that she never stops moving. I was out of breath just watching her jump and dance around and, honestly, I’d love a copy of her workout regimen.
She created a personal connection with the audience by strongly encouraging everyone to move closer to the stage so she could see each person’s face. Furthering this connection, JJ decided halfway through the tour that she was going to add a song called “Funeral for a Lover” to the setlist and explained that it was about mental health. She introduced the song by saying, “If you haven’t talked to someone in a while, send that text because you never know where somebody’s at. It’s very important to check in on people.” Who knew this queen of alt-rock was so emotional?
While the entire show was great—from the way the band interacted with each other on stage to JJ’s overall demeanor—the thing I loved most about JJ Wilde was her effortless tone. She has a natural rasp to her voice that breaks on the higher notes, which lends itself to a grungy yet melodic style.
I left the show feeling a sense of pride in the underground music community, and wholeheartedly believe there’s a lot more to be discovered about JJ Wilde and what she can bring to the stage. I’m now following her on Spotify, and I highly recommend you do the same.