In an age where young musicians follow the popular demand for flashy princes of EDM, clever and streetwise rappers, or pretty-faced boy bands, British indie singer-songwriter Jake Bugg returns to the basics: a musician, his voice and his guitar. The young talent first signed with Mercury Records after debuting on BBC’s “Introducing” stage at the 2011 Glastonbury Festival. The release of his self-titled debut album in 2012 catapulted his success, jumping to a main stage performance at the 2013 Festival. Drawing largely on blues and folk rock influences like Johnny Cash, Oasis and Bob Dylan, the nineteen-year old modernizes the soul of past musical eras with poignant lyrics and a post-punk aesthetic while in the process of discovering his own sound.
In the dim cavern of the Paradise Rock Club in Boston, Bugg took the stage and began his set with the acoustic and melodic “Fire.” All in black, with just a spotlight on him and his guitar, Bugg’s shaggy dark locks covered his eyes as he strummed and sang. Picking up the pace with the accompaniment of a drummer and bassist in “Trouble Town,” Bugg’s storytelling lyrics continued into the uptempo folksy rhythm of “Seen It All.” The slower, Beatles-esque “Simple As This” was next. His vocals carried the melody amongst acoustic guitar strums and tambourine.
“Ballad of Mr. Jones” brought in a harsher alt-rock sound which failed to blend smoothly with his almost vintage-sounding voice, rendering it more nasally than rough. A blazing guitar solo finished off the song with ferocity nevertheless, showcasing his skill on the electric guitar. Returning to acoustic with crowd favorite “Country Song,” full of sentimental lyrics, the charmingly shy Brit scoffed as rowdy audience members disrupted a tender moment in the song, pausing to laugh before the crowd wildly encouraged him on.
Next came the recently released “Song About Love,” a wistful ballad with powerfully emotional croons. Bugg built cadence slowly from the gentle lulls of “Someplace” to the guitar-heavy chorus that carried into the faster “Me and You.” The invigorated atmosphere buzzed before the crowd went wild upon hearing the first notes of chart-topper and existential youth anthem, “Two Fingers.” Keeping it lively with “Taste It,” country blues blended with his distinctively britpop vocals in this unique and catchy dance tune. To finish off the strong set, Bugg transitioned into White Stripes-like minimalist, but powerful, drums, crisp lyrics and fiery guitar solos in “Kingpin.”
The crowd remained, cheering in anticipation before he took the stage once more for an encore that included Neil Young cover “My My Hey Hey” and popular hit “Lightning Bolt.” Bugg danced around the stage, throwing guitar picks into the crowd in a glimpse of showmanship from the coolly mysterious artist.
As a songwriter, Bugg narrates romantic and nostalgic tales of working class youth with a resonating authenticity. His rapid rise to notoriety is testament to his musical skill. With a range of influences and a unique sound in the making, Bugg’s Nottingham twang and toe-tapping rhythms will undoubtedly continue to charm and intrigue audiences across the globe on his 2013 international tour. Not bad for a teen out of a small town in England.
Seen It All
Simple As This
Ballad of Mr. Jones
Song About Love
Me and You
My My Hey Hey (Neil Young cover)