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Review: UK-Based Electro Soul Group, Jungle, at Bowery Ballroom

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Photo Courtesy of Bridget Wade
Photo Courtesy of Bridget Wade

If you haven’t heard of the UK-based group, Jungle, it might be because of their lack of publicity. Until their recent US tour, Jungle, known for producing kaleidoscopic modern soul, has kept a relatively low, almost secretive, profile. They’ve built their following by releasing arty music videos and press images that didn’t actually feature band members.

The duo released two singles in 2013 that went viral: Platoon starring a six-year-old break dancer and The Heat garnering attention for its jaw-dropping roller skate routines.

The BBC called them “Masters of Mystery” and referred to Jungle as “one of the most intriguing and fresh sounding bands out there,” in their Sound of 2014, an annual poll of music critics and industry figures to find the most promising new music talent.

The group is based around a core musical duo of lifelong friends, Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland (known until recently only as ‘J’ and ‘T’) who expanded their sound to include a seven piece electro-soul group with infectious beats and global appeal.

Although their sounds comes off as sleepy, electro-funk on their singles, Wednesday night’s performance at Bowery Ballroom showcased the band’s on-stage chemistry and ability to create an infectious energy in the crowd.

Seattle-based Beat Connection opened the show to a sparse room, but as their set continued, they got the crowd moving to their indie pop/electronic grooves. By the time Jungle hit the stage for the sold-out show, the house was packed and the throng broke out into an all-out dance party with the first lyrics of opener The Heat. 

As a relatively new band emerging in a sea of electronic-based music acts, it was questionable whether their sound would translate to a live setting. But simply put, it most certainly did, and Jungle killed it – more than most expected.

On stage, the harmonizing of ‘J’ and ‘T’ is much more dynamic than in their recorded singles, and from a prime location on the balcony, it was entertaining to see how much fun the duo was having on stage, dancing fervently and smiling widely, all while singing, playing the keyboard and adjusting synths.

They finished their set with a soulful performance of Busy Earnin, and exited the stage after screaming, “Thank you New York! You’ve been amazing.” But the crowd wasn’t done dancing, and after a few minutes of demand, Jungle was back on stage, breaking into Time.

As expected with a newer band, the show was short because they didn’t have as much material to play. But overall, Jungle’s live performance exceeded expectations. Hopefully their new album, which will be released July 15, finds a way to capture the energy and soul of the group’s live performance.

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