On the first Saturday of the month, hyperpop duo Jockstrap took to the stage at the White Hotel in Salford. It was wild and woolly outside the venue; torrential rain had been lashing down on Manchester for hours by the time the doors opened. But inside the weird and wonderful warehouse that is the White Hotel, the air was warm and close, the crowd barely visible for the thick smoke that hung around the stage.
Jockstrap are currently on a UK tour following the release of their debut album I Love You Jennifer B at the start of September. Many of the other dates have taken place in more traditional gig venues than the White Hotel, which usually hosts techno DJ sets and queer rave nights. With this in mind, the decision to play there must have been conscious and well thought-out – you have to be a special type of artist to pull off a show in such a remote, industrial club, but Jockstrap were clearly up for the challenge.
The night started off with an energetic set from Babymorocco, who delivered the kind of tunes that you could imagine Charli XCX listening to whilst at an Ibiza beach club in 2010. In other words, ridiculously extravagant dance-pop, filthy house beats, and pure, unadulterated donk. By the time he left the stage, the room had packed out, with fans desperately trying to get a good spot before the headline set. Mozart’s ‘Requiem in D Minor’ resonated around the room as we waited, creating an otherworldly, almost holy atmosphere, that lasted throughout Jockstrap’s set.
The pair came onstage to loud applause and kicked off with the album’s title track ‘Jennifer B’. Vocalist Georgia Ellery soon had the audience under her thumb, bounding around the stage in a 60s-style lime green pant suit. In contrast, her bandmate Taylor Skye sat behind his keyboards with a charming timidity, performing several technically advanced feats at any given time with little more than a slight smile here or a small nod there. The juxtaposition worked well: one commanded the audience while the other ensured the musical foundations remained faultless.
After ‘Jennifer B’ came old favourites ‘Acid’ and ‘Robert’ from Jockstrap’s 2020 EP Wicked City, which were both met with enthusiasm from everyone in the room (not least by one audience member who repeatedly shouted “Play ‘Robert’ again!” throughout the rest of Jockstrap’s show). The set then continued with ‘Greatest Hits’ – one of the groovier tracks on the new album. Georgia appeared completely transported by the music as she threw herself into her dance moves, performing a series of spins and kicks in an almost primal expression of feeling. “Imagine I’m the Madonna”, she drawled, oozing confidence under the warm, celestial glow of the spotlight.
The tone then shifted significantly as the duo temporarily ditched their electronic drum samples and autotune in favour of acoustic guitar and delicate keys to play ‘What’s It All About’, giving the audience a moment to exhale and reflect. This is exactly what makes Jockstrap such an exciting and intriguing act: they are able to transition from chaotic club tune to beautiful ballad in a matter of seconds without losing the crowd’s attention.
The next song on the setlist, their latest single ‘Glasgow’, perfectly encapsulated this talent. Opening with angelic synths, a Joni Mitchell-esque guitar part soon came in, building the momentum until the song surged into a coming-of-age anthem of empowerment and independence. ‘Glasgow’ certainly showcases Jockstrap at their most intimate and candid, with the stripped-back instrumentals a far cry from some of their earlier electronic material. But, with the crowd singing along to every lyric, it was clear that for many, this softer side of the band’s sound is just as loved.
The night continued with more songs from the album, as well as Jockstrap’s debut single ‘Hayley’ from 2018, which Georgia dedicated to anyone in the room who had been a fan since day one. ‘Angst’ came soon after, with Taylor’s dainty, ethereal harp sounds and Georgia’s whispered, silky vocals casting another calming spell across the audience. ‘I had a bit of a spiritual moment there’, I heard someone confess behind me as the song came to an end.
The set began drawing to a close with ‘The City’ before reaching its climax on ’50/50′, which is arguably Jockstrap’s most daring, masterful song to date. It was as if all the energy that had been brewing inside the venue suddenly reached its boiling point, sending a tidal wave of sweaty euphoria around the crowd. No one remained static; the sea of bodies moved as one to the pounding bass, screaming the song’s refrain back at Jockstrap in a game of verbal tennis that Georgia and Taylor seemed to thrive off.
For the fans lucky enough to get tickets to this gig, it was the chance to show their appreciation for a band who constantly subvert listeners’ expectations of their musical capabilities and continually push the boundaries of hyper-pop. A roar of applause filled the room as the pair left the stage, leaving the fans to stumble back out into the dark and stormy night, the final song still ringing in their ears.
Jockstrap return to Manchester in February, and you can get your tickets here!