The tale has become so old, it doesn’t even bear repeating, but here it is anyway: Band comes together, does some minor gigs, posts songs on Myspace, gets a record deal and goes on The Warped Tour. Take a look at the modern rock charts and you’ll see all the familiar names – Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, etc.
On Friday night, Oct. 20, one such band stood on stage at Highdive on the verge of achieving the fame their predecessors have seen come their way. They were Champaign’s own JigGsaw, who this year released their debut album Zero Generation, shooting footage for an upcoming video.
The show was contrite, but electric. In a little over an hour, they were able to fit over 10 songs, plus encores, whilst rampaging through their punk.
To some their music could be called emo, and their three-chord emoting does lend itself to that description, but their music is much more raw, more suited to the disconnected and alienated ’70s than to suburban today.
“We’re talking about the real punk rock bands,” guitarist Hayden Cler said after the show about JigGsaw. “Most of these bands [today] don’t have anything to say.”
Unlike many of their peers, JigGsaw invests heavy in melody. “Dance For Me,” played at the beginning of their Friday night set, adopts the idea of teenage love and plays it to synthesizers – not what one would expect to hear at a punk rock show.
Live, it sounded like a traditional propulsive punk song, but essentially “Dance For Me” is pop without the production.
Like all scrappy bands, JigGsaw is rough around the edges. Singer Mark’s voice is whiny and nasal, but the songs he sings are so well-written, it’s hard to care about technicalities.
Many contributors can be found in a list of the band’s influences, which, when listed by the band itself, includes Rogue Wave and Matt Pond PA.
Speaking about the band’s music, singer Mark said, “It’s melodic and we try to complement the vocals as much as we can with the guitars.”
On stage the guys of JigGsaw either stand still or engage in overt showmanship. At various times they coordinated guitar flips or, led by Cler, danced wildly to the music.
While not overtly political, JigGsaw is invested in the idea of punk rock as catharsis, be it for societal or relationship ills. Punk bands have gotten away from this, too often wrapping themselves in half-baked verbal witticisms and period costumes.
Nonetheless, being on Warped Tour, even for a short time, helped JigGsaw gain some fans.
“Our Myspace blew up,” bassist Mike Hicks said of the effect of the tour on the band’s popularity.
JigGsaw is capable of harsh sentiments. “Mona Lisa’s Mirror,” among others, contains lines like “I wish you were dead,” a typical break-up line, but when the lyrics are sung so intensely, it’s hard not to personally sympathize with what Cler is singing about.
In some sense JigGsaw is the American version of The Jam. Albeit their problems revolve less around socialist urban blight and more around break-ups and make-ups, their forms are the same. JigGsaw’s songs are moody and violent (like Paul Weller’s best work), but as a listener, you know they’re harmless.
Aside from when they find their groove, the band’s best apparent breakthrough is when they discover how to incorporate other genres into their music, some funky bass riffs or a seemingly improvised guitar lick.
JigGsaw ended their set Friday night with a cover of The Killers’ current single, “When You Were Young.”
“[We] went to L.A. to master our record, and the guy we mastered it with, Bryan Gardner, mastered the first Killers record,” Mark said. “The same night [The Killers] happened to be playing the Jimmy Kimmel show, so we decided to check it out … and they were amazing.”
“When [The Killers] first put out their first record they were horrible,” drummer Clint McGraw responded. “And when we saw them in L.A., it was like a whole new band.”
The same explosiveness can be applied to JigGsaw’s cover of The Killers’ song. Their version was a rote interpretation, but it still managed to engulf the room and provide a bookend to an exciting night.
As JigGsaw progressed through their set list, the band emanated confidence and electricity from their center stage position. When they showcased a new song, even though it was incredibly raw and seemingly untitled, they still radiated an energy and stage presence that sets them apart from a lot of local bands, who are still not comfortable in their own skin.
However, what might be JigGsaw’s most distinctive trait is their congeniality. As Cler shouted at the beginning of the show: “You guys are the epitome of sexy!”
Perhaps, more bands should be so nice.