Jeff Mangum - Live at Jittery Joe's
Aug 17, 2019
[SJO Counter: 50!]

As someone who doesn’t go to live performances often at all, the general sound and approach of this Jeff Mangum live album made me feel like it was just a nice little Saturday night.

You go to chill out at the worn out country bar just a few miles down the street and gravel road. It’s pitch black outside, with very little street lighting, but you enter into the bar with a lot of familiar faces approaching to greet you. You refuse a glass of whiskey offered to you by the local Sheriff, who was just chilling around and having a good time. You ask some people how their day is going. It’s a cool night after a hot summer day. The people sitting around tell you that their day was exhausting, working on the farm, having their tractor stop halfway on the road and people spending all day trying to earn a buck with the crops they sell in their own little farm business. You notice the karaoke section is looking pretty crowded today, but you don’t notice it until a guy in the corner accidentally falls onto the floor drunk. Then, you hear faint sounds of a drunk man singing on stage and you go to figure out what the heck is going on.

You enter the room and notice that everyone is just chilling around. Sitting by themselves, standing and moving their bodies awkwardly and they all seem to be focused on that one drunk singer on stage who’s pouring their heart out to get some money and recognition. Someone offers you another glass of whiskey, and you finally give in cause you didn’t want to let anyone down. So, you drank one glass. You began to bring your focus more to the singer on stage. You notice how awfully faint everything sounds and get slightly annoyed by the man’s bad singing. But, something’s up. Instead of people throwing stuff onto the stage and pushing them out as they normally did, people were nodding their heads gently to the man’s voice. There’s that sense of acceptance and respect you don’t get to see often in the drunk public spaces. You get hooked into the music eventually.

After a long night at the bar, you get back home quite sober. Police stop by and enter the bar, but you’re too tired to notice. After getting back home, you get curious. You find the drunk man who performed on stage that night online and you begin to listen to some low-quality live-recordings. You spend the rest of the night alone in your bedroom, mesmerized by the man’s great talents, even though it was far from perfect.

This is the Live At Jittery Joe’s musical experience.

Live performances and albums are...breathtaking to say the least.

Music can't really live without live performances in my opinion. Sometimes, it's an amazing experience to watch you favorite artist perform on stage and witness the heart, soul, passion and emotion they really put into their works. You watch them and the people around you have a great time and you just get dragged into the moment. Sometimes, live performances truly bring the studio version of songs into a whole new light and leave you with a lot more impact.

That’s probably what makes live albums so fascinating to me. It doesn’t really matter who the artist is (but if they’re an artist I really like, I’m instantly hooked in). What matters is the passion, the art, creativity and the genuine feeling of the artist. You may really get to know the more personal side of an artist that you don’t hear on an album when they sing, rap or play an instrument in front of a crowd.

What also makes live albums so interesting? Well, for me, I’ve gone to only a few live concerts and stage performances in my life, so I haven’t really experienced that “Live performance” feel before. I’d consider myself quite an introvert in real life. I’m not very talkative, like being alone more often than I’d admit and don’t feel comfortable at all being in crowded spaces with a lot of noise. I live in rural Ontario, and while I do like being outside and witnessing the world around me, I’m a lot more connected with nature. There’s rarely people around for the most part, so I’ve learnt to adapt to my surroundings.

Sorry for being a bit too personal, but that’s genuinely what I feel. Talking about live albums just gets the more personal side of me out. With that being said, live albums are a unique experience, and I’m glad I had the chance to experience Live At Jittery Joe’s.

As one RYM user would mention, it’s “A Masterful and Intimate Explosion”.

Live performances like this one work so well because they’re very intimate and are nowhere near perfect. You can clearly tell Jeff Mangum messes up and it makes for a pretty genuine live album that’s raw and full of emotion. This record was recorded before the release of In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, so there are a few lackluster musical ideas here and there. However, that doesn’t mean the end result isn’t far from satisfying.

Jeff Mangum’s vocals are quite stunning, romantic and bittersweet. Although not the most impressive vocalist out there, his sentimental voice makes the performances quite powerful and emotionally impactful! Instrumentally, it has a delicate rough edge to it that gives the songs their flavor. Sometimes, even when it’s not intended to, his vocals are haunting, yet very heartwarming too.

If there’s one way I can categorize this album, it’s quite a romantic indie folk, lo-fi chill experience. While sometimes psychedelic, other times it’s nearly stripped down to nothing but Jeff’s gorgeous vocals flowing through the track like a little waterfall. And there’s something really charming about that.

Yes, this is indeed a very flawed album front to back. You have the most horrifyingly awful and annoying sound of a baby crying out of nowhere (probably -5 points right off the bat), sometimes terrible sound and mixing quality and way less than perfect singing. However, with all the heart, soul and the right mindset going into this live spectacle, it’s a lovely poetic piece of art to look back on.

It’s not the best live album out there, but my god does it have the intimacy figured out. Truly a wonder that no one should miss out on!

FAV TRACKS: Two-Headed Boy, I Will Bury You In Time, Gardenhead/Leave Me Alone, I Love How You Love Me, Oh Comely

Aug 17, 2019
Holy Fuck that's nice
Aug 18, 2019
This is a very underappreciated live record. Needs to be talked about more. Great review!
Aug 21, 2019
How did you do 50 of these in a day
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