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Rewind: Jibe Kicks it Old-school with a Perfectly Crafted Set at The Curtain Club

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After a busy summer that included releasing their first record in fifteen years in June and then celebrating its release a month later with a monumental show that is still vivid in the minds’ of fans, Jibe is looking to keep the momentum going.

Now a little more than two years after reuniting, the Dallas-based band is fully ushering in a new era, one that was furthered by the official worldwide release of Epic Tales of Human Nature (out via Sixtyfouronthefloor / Kobalt), now available not just from the band’s digital store, but all major online retailers, such as iTunes, Google Play and so on.

Their fall is definitely off to a good start because of that, though there has been a bump or two in the road over the last couple of months, notably, the departure of the only man to ever set behind the drum kit for Jibe, Ben Jeffries.

Having spent time drumming for some of the most renowned acts to ever call the D-FW area home, Jeffries certainly left some big shoes to fill, though the remaining core members of Jibe tapped one of best possible candidates for the job, bringing Todd Harwell of Doosu fame (and various other groups) into the fold.

With both bands having been fixtures of the music scene from the ‘90s through the early 2000s, having played plenty of shows with one another during that time, he was the only choice that made the most sense.

All of that was culminating at The Curtain Club this night, being another CD release show of sorts as Jibe marked the full scale release of their sensational new album, along with introducing Harwell as an official member of the group as he made his live debut with them.

The two acts that they had selected to support them – Anova and Adakain – had set a high bar, though there was no doubt that it would be surpassed by what was still to come; the most die-hard Jibe fans hastily snatching a spot in front of the stage after Adakain’s crowd dispersed.

The sound check alluded to as much, the sonorous drum beats rattling one’s chest, while the bass did much of the same; the guitar being deafening.

And then the waiting game continued, their eleven-o’clock start time rolling around and then passing by, eager anticipation beginning to build.

All of a sudden the relative silence was pierced by some sizzling riffs as well a pronounced, deep percussion; the curtain soon opening to reveal Toby Bittenbender, Corey Tatro and Harwell in performance mode, rocking out with passion and conviction. Moments later Joe Grah sprinted onto the stage, quipping as he grabbed the microphone stand about how anymore they just dive right into the performance.

They began with a string of cuts off of 2000’s In My Head, opening with the first full song on it, “Daybreak”. Oh, what a sensational opener it was. A ton of energy is packed into the recording of the song, energy that was fully unleashed in the live environment, behooving of the vigorous performances that Jibe has built their reputation around.

Right out of the gate it was almost a bit of a sensory overload, trying to keep up with all of the action being an engaging and delightful task as Grah dashed around, frequently leaning out towards the crowd, while the instrumentalists stole the spotlight when the short break came around.

“Underwater Life” came in rapid succession, becoming a shred fest as Bittenbender wailed on his guitar, crushing the blistering solo, and as they made a seamless segue into the next song, Grah trekked back to the drum riser, a floor tom sitting to the right of Harwell’s kit. Bolstering the percussion, the pair carried on for a few seconds, fans’ excitement reaching a fever pitch, ecstatic over what they knew was coming next. Practically everyone was echoing along to the words of “Naked In the Rain”, an exceptionally impassioned performance of it allowing it to really resonate with the people.

In those three songs they had quickly proven it to be fact that Harwell was the right man for the job, the drummer holding nothing back, his style being fierce and authoritative, the kind of backbone a band like this needs, not just because it’s what they’ve always had, but because it ensures the music actually grips the listener.

“…We’re so glad to be back where we started!” Grah exclaimed as he bantered with the concert goers, noting they had put this bill together and were thrilled with how well everything had turned out before stressing, “We’re going to be here a longtime,” reinforcing the idea that they are back in for the long-haul.

They would play about half of the material from Epic Tales of Human Nature, beginning with the latest single from it, “Release”. In just a few short months it seems to have found a spot as a revered favorite among fans who cheered as they recognized the gritty and grungy song that nicely captures that Seattle sound of the early ‘90s.

Throughout that song (and the show in general) Grah was constantly interacting with everyone. Hands thrust up from elated fans were met with a shake as he leaned out over other patrons to reach them. Reciprocation is crucial in life, and the vocalist was all about making certain that everyone knew that bond of respect and love was a mutual one and that the caring spirit was felt.

A megaphone dangling from his arm as that track got underway, the battery compartment on it wound up coming open during all of the moving around, some of the fans saving the batteries that fell out, all unbeknownst to the singer. As the bridge came around he turned it on, soon discovering it wasn’t working. “A whisper, a word cannot be stopped by any wall. …Love, set us free!” he shouted straight into the mic, a reverb effect still providing a similar feel as the megaphone would have. It sure didn’t hamper the song, and honestly, it even sounded a bit cooler in that manner, the conviction in the plea for unity being palpable.

Afterwards, it was time for a couple more gems from the past, though ones that received some context as Grah regaled everyone with some stories about them.

Some seemed a bit shocked when he spoke of being high on ecstasy back in the day, Grah quickly stressing he wanted to be open and honest with everyone. He and the woman he was with at the time sharing the experience, he said she looked at him and said, “I’m going to kill you,” something he took at face value.

Such candid remarks were welcome, even if they surprised some, and they fit in line with “Conversation”, a song that boasts the confession, “…When I’m inside her, I can’t let her go…” during the second verse.

Already firing on all cylinders, they still gave the impression that they were just warming up, Tatro radiating sheer confidence as he demonstrated his mastery over the bass, bounding around stage left, while Grah slung the mic stand over his shoulder and carried it around with him for a time, ultimately slamming it to the ground, leaning into it and closing as eyes as the song concluded.

Another anecdote revolved around a pay phone that used to be located right outside the doors of the Curtain Club and a dark time in the singer’s life when he used it and didn’t get an answer from who he was calling.

A true rarity that felt as if it had been selected specifically for this show at this venue, “Phone Call” drew an exuberant reaction from the fans, most of whom had been desperately hoping for it.

Talk then circled back to the present and their new record, along with a formal mention of Todd Harwell and welcoming him into the band. Grah then reminisced about their times touring with Doosu a couple of decades or so ago and all of the good times and wild rides (literally, from the story he shared) they had together.

As spectacular as those songs are, there’s a grand scope to the new material that is unparalleled, “Change” exemplifying that, capturing an overwhelmingly positive vibe and unrelenting dedication that’s inspiring and it washed over everyone that was in the room.

“Crush” was another tune from the Uprising era that was worked into the show this night, those songs still having a special spark about them, as that record cemented the band as true powerhouse. Fifteen years later and they still sound edgy and fresh, having no trouble holding their own against more modern rock songs.

Keeping the swift pace going, the quintet soon launched into what was one of the most brilliant songs of the night, “Children Of The Sun” being absolutely epic. I don’t think it even sounded as phenomenal at their July CD release show as it did this night. It was teeming with energy and enthusiasm, the nuances heard in it making it utterly compelling.

Upon finishing it, Bittenbender got a chance to address the spectators, mentioning one of the most revered soundmen in North Texas, James. He may not be the resident sound guru at the Curtain anymore, though he was back behind the board for them on this night; the guitarist also mentioning that they had recorded In My Head there, in that venue, with James. For those that weren’t aware, it was an interesting fact to learn.

After disappearing from sight briefly, Grah was back on stage and took over once his band mate was done, thanking their “real” supporters for showing up on this night, promising they would never forget what all they had done for them.

That seemed to suggest, or at least allude to, some big plans for the future in regards to pushing Epic Tales…, subsequently making “We’ve Only Just Begun” a fitting follow-up to rip into. It allowed them to further assert their dominance, kicking it up several notches, while also better highlighting the chemistry this revamped lineup already has, making it look as if they have performed that hundreds of times over instead of the reality of just a handful.

The story of Jibe now being an encouraging tale about redemption and making amends, Grah stated how good it was to put this “family” back together, they very one he admittedly had torn apart. As he continued speaking, some subtle riffs became noticeable, the audience roaring upon realizing “Uprising” was next.

It was then, for (surprisingly) the first and only time of the night, that Grah crowd surfed. After grabbing their flag with their logo on it, tucking it into the waistband of his pants, he let himself drop into the crowd, complete faith in the fact he’d be caught.

“We’re taking it fucking back,” he repeated as it ended, gradually elevating from a normal speaking voice to a shout that conveyed it as a defiant declaration.

“…It’s never too late to find yourself… It’s never too late to rebuild…” he cried during another series of remarks that went along with the idea of second chances. “We deserve more than what has been handed down by the fools in charge…” added Grah. “We will redeem ourselves! I don’t care if we die in the process, we WILL find a way!” he finished, now riding a new wave of excitement as Harwell opened up “Best I Ever Had”.

The crowd surfing may have been sparse this night, though there were other antics Grah decided to do. At the tail end of that number the singer climbed atop the stack of speakers on the stage, staying perched up there for a few moments. Most surely would have bet money on the fact that he was going to jump from there back into the crowd. There were more than enough people to catch him. But no, he had intentions of going higher than that. A quick glance at the ceiling, surveying what he might be able to grab onto, and then he leapt, finding a pipe that he wound up hanging upside down from, singing the remainder of the song like that. Every bit as shocking was the way he just dropped back down to the stage floor, as if being ten or so feet in the air wasn’t even that big of a deal.

That’s the kind of classic behavior that defines bands and sets them apart from others, something that makes certain that fans will be amazed and the concert will be an experience worth remembering.

With a handful of songs left, things got a little heartfelt, their next number being dedicated to the victims and those affected by the shooting in Las Vegas nearly a week before. “…It’s fucked up that we live in a world where a person will do that…” Bittenbender said, like so many still seemingly trying to grapple with why it would happen in the first place.

Arguably one of the most beautiful songs ever written, “Rewind” was an apt one to send out to those linked to such a tragedy. “If I could turn the hands of time, I’d go back and rewind to the days I spent with you. If I could see your face once more I would wrap you up, for sure, and hold you. Never let you go.” The crowd sung along to every heartfelt word of that chorus, one that perfectly captures the power that music has, especially in its ability to connect on such a raw, emotional level with people.

“POWER to the fucking people! We deserve MORE! …We got a life to live, TOGETHER!” Grah bellowed; “The Human Condition” seeming to have been carefully selected to proceed that previous song, especially given the context it was presented in this night. It went from a touching number about loss to one focused on reckoning the current state of things, imploring a drastic change in people and society, a shift away from the (self-)destructive behavior that seems to be ingrained in everyone. The bane of existence, perhaps.

“We want to thank you guys for being here. …We would be nothing without you. You mother fuckers are the foundation of it all!” Grah graciously remarked. “Let’s see if you remember this song,” he finished, Bittenbender promptly firing up “Yesterday’s Gone”.

That hit single of theirs brought the show to what kind of seemed like an abrupt end, at least until checking the time and discovering they had been up there for 75-minutes. It felt like a fraction of that, everyone having become thoroughly immersed in the blissful world that Jibe’s music and performance creates.

Their return to the Curtain Club acted as a great nod to days gone by, though not necessarily Jibe’s glory days. By all accounts, those seem to be on the horizon. Harwell already appears to be broken in; the band looking to be in prime touring shape, something that apparently is planned in the not too distant future. Armed with a stellar catalog of songs they’re bound to make some waves, thanks to classics that are sheer rock ‘n’ roll and new tracks that can be enjoyed on the most basic level but also work to engage and challenge listeners’ by touching on relatable issues.

Getting back to how the time had just flown by, it’s so easy to get lost in a Jibe show. The caliber of performance that they deliver is exceptional. They operate in the league of the most elite, the amount of professionalism that Grah, Bittenbender, Tatro and Harwell carry themselves with being as extraordinary as the enthusiasm that they exude. And it’s evident that they are relishing every second they get to spend on a stage, in front of adoring and clamoring fans, the four of them giving nothing less than their best.

That can surely be attributed to the fact that they were defunct for so long, a newfound appreciation having come out of their reconciliation, none of this – be it sharing their music with others that want to hear it to the camaraderie they share – being taken for granted.

And it could be argued that that is precisely what makes Jibe better now than they ever have been. While retaining the youthful energy and reckless abandon that made them turn heads during their initial time together, they now epitomize second chances. That’s open to interpretation. Second chances at personal redemption in the form of making amends or proving something to yourself, or even in pursuing what you love and following your heart.

It’s never too late. That was the defining message to take to heart from Jibe’s return to one of the most storied venues in Deep Ellum, and they worked to impart it to everyone.

It’s never too late.

Next up for the band is a show at Rockin’ Rodeo in Denton on Thursday, November 2nd. They’ll be the main support act for The Nixons’ latest reunion show. It’s sure to be something special; and get tickets quick, because it will sell out. Also, be sure to check out Epic Tales of Human Nature in iTUNES or GOOGLE PLAY if you don’t already have it.