Article By: Kylie Ketchner
Photography By: Madi Heath
Jungle’s performance at the Boulder Theater on September 30th, was an electric display of an amazing ensemble. An english modern soul collective coming out of London formed by Tom McFarland and Josh Lloyd-Watson, they perform with an energetic 7-piece band. McFarland and Lloyd-Watson simply go as T and J, respectively, as to focus the audience on the music and not the people. The collective energy, without a focus on any one individual artist, was certainly evident throughout the entire show. Around me, I heard no one talking about specific members of the band, and their merch was simple, with only the bold logo JUNGLE. The audience and the band member’s joy for the music was contagious throughout the show.
I arrived to the Boulder Theater early and watched as it slowly filled. Lots of people milled about, open shirts and beers in hand, and the atmosphere was like that of a kickback. Everyone was smiling, friendly and happy, and the warm interior of the Boulder Theater was a stark contrast to the cold night outside. I specifically noticed two girls in the front row dressed in sequined dresses, one with jewels plastered to her forehead and the other rocking a bright pink wig. Eventually, the lights dropped and the crowd turned their attention from casual conversation to the stage.
The opener, Neil Frances, came on stage with a nice build up to their first song. All four members came on stage dressed in white clothing. Their music was upbeat and fun with fast tempos, and almost everyone in the crowd nodded along in approval. They held the audience’s attention well with their songs and stage presence- the bassist in particular played some fantastic solos- but it was also possible to feel the anticipation in the air for Jungle. At one point the lead singer shouted out “Jungleeeeee” and the crowd cheered in excitement. As their set ended, the same singer walked over to the sequined girls and crouched down to give one of them a hug.
The wait before Jungle came on built up the anticipation further. As stagehands rushed about the stage in preparation, smoke drifted over the illuminated JUNGLE sign above the complex drum set. The theater was filled with laughter and light conversation until finally the lights dropped and the crowd roared as Jungle came on stage and started with their hit “Smile”. Each member smiled and waved at the crowd as they assumed their positions-their excitement was evident and contagious. It was a strong opening as the audience reacted intently to the swelling chorus. Next, they played their most popular track, “Heavy, California”. This one had everyone in the audience, especially the sequined girls, completely losing themselves in the music. As they sang during the breakdown, “Just hold me, I’m a lonely heart, you’ve been miles away”, I watched as T lost himself in the lyrics, closing his eyes, long dark hair tucked behind his ears. The audience clapped along as the instruments cut out. “Platoon” was next and I felt was the first song to truly illuminate the ensemble aspect of this group. Every member did their part- the singer in front of me, Rudi Salmon, played a bedazzled shaker. In fact, they were more than covered in the shaker department as Dominic Whalley impressively played 2 alongside the conga.
At this point in the show, the audience was completely and fully immersed in the music. I found myself unable to stop moving along to the compelling beats. The beats were heavy, and the choruses catchy, and the basslines strong. Their next song was “Julia”, a sporadic song full of intense bursts of music. I specifically noticed Rudi Salmon’s deep, commanding voice. T collapsed downwards with deep bursts, at at one point brushed closely by J as he rushed back to his microphone- too lost in his dancing, or gliding, and nearly missing his cue. Red light bathed the stage for “The Heat”, and ominous pre-recorded police sirens played before the singers came in. “Happy man” was next, a song with a catchy chorus that many people sang along to. This was followed by “Beat 54”, a gentle track which led the audience in a soothing break after the high-energy of “Happy Man”. Next, they played “Cherry”, one of my personal favorites from the set, and bathed the stage in pink and white light. The feeling was velvet, and almost everyone in the audience dropped their eyelids and swayed along to the sound.
Following “Cherry” was the deep, booming song “Pray”. Blue lights washed over the stage and no one in the audience stood still. I even watched as one particular girl in the front row, who had remained relatively still for most of the set, relented and danced along.
“Lucky I am next” and “Lemonade Lake” followed. Both had dreamy, slow feels to them. As I looked around at the beautiful paintings on the walls and ceiling of the Boulder Theater during “Casio” it was easy to feel completely immersed in the music. After, one of their newest songs, “House in LA” gave off a regal, golden feel to it. The audience was entranced. Next came “Drops”, a slow, gentle song that somehow sounded just like its purple lighting.
Finally, they played another of their bigger hits- “Busy Earnin’”. It had an epic buildup, and the audience went wild for the contagious energy on the stage. At one point, T jumped atop of an amp, much to to the thrill of the audience (around me I heard many people nudging their friends, pointing, “Look at him!”). As they ended, the audience cheered as they left the stage until they returned a minute later for their encore, a song called “Time”. This song carried over the electric energy from “Busy Earnin’” and the everyone in the audience wildly danced along. It ended with a massive crescendo, and the group waved, gracious smile donning all of their faces, as they exited the stage for good and the lights came up.
Before this show I knew very little about this band, but after watching them perform they blew me away. From their fluid group dynamic and chemistry to the charged atmosphere of the audience, they created a feeling that was simply joyous and purely music. I will certainly be on the look out for their upcoming projects and wherever they may return to Boulder--and bring their fantastic show with them.