Jawbreaker Week: Day 5 – The Reunion

For the last day of Jawbreaker Week, we bring you the moment that all Jawbreaker fans had been waiting for: the reunion. Below, find some highlights of Jawbreaker’s reunion tour and get more Jawbreaker when you pick up 24 Hour Revenge Therapy.

There aren’t many genuine surprises nowadays in popular and semi-popular music. But Jawbreaker surprised pretty much everyone by announcing on April 21, 2017, that they were getting back together to play Chicago’s Riot Fest in September. For a thirty-something Jawbreaker fan who had never seen the band in their prime, it was an instant, no-brainer decision.


For those who haven’t been: Riot Fest is a three-day music festival and gathering of the aging guitar-rock tribe, held at the end of every summer at Douglas Park in Chicago. Where other big festivals have all but abandoned rock bands in favor of younger (and frankly more relevant) artists, Riot Fest is proudly, unabashedly rockist, as the overwhelming majority of its bookings show: it was the festival that got The Replacements to reunite, in 2013, and The Misfits, three years later. For the 2017 edition, a respectable (if still slightly token) contingent of hip-hop, electronic, and dance acts (Wu-Tang Clan, Prophets of Rage, New Order, Nine Inch Nails, M.I.A.) gave mostly excellent performances that were well received by the crowd. But they were very much outnumbered by the rock acts, and paunchy men with guitars: Queens of the Stone Age, Dinosaur Jr., Built to Spill, Paramore, At the Drive In, New Found Glory, Buzzcocks, Cap’n Jazz, and so on.


Rather unlike the crowds at a festival like Coachella, or even Bonnaroo, the Riot Fest audience is not a youthful one. It is, instead, a magnet for people like me–rock listeners, or one-time rock listeners, and people in their 30s and 40s, who were born approximately between 1970 and 1980. It’s not quite true that you won’t find people of color in the crowd at Riot Fest; but you won’t find many. There are lots of tattoos, lots of facial hair, black t-shirts, piercings, and hair dye. There are more than a few strollers and cute little kids wearing those big protective headphones. As I mentioned to more than one friend in the days and weeks after, it was one of the few times I can remember standing in a field of 50,000 people and being the only person in eyesight to be wearing a button-down shirt.


Anyway: Jawbreaker closed out Riot Fest on Sunday, September 17. Was it weird, after all these years, to see the airplane-sized JAWBREAKER backdrop on the same stage where Nine Inch Nails and Queens of the Stone Age had played the nights before? You could say that. I tried to write about the experience in the 24 Hour book, and to capture some of what it felt like to stand in Douglas Park that night with many thousands of people who loved the band as much as I did; but I’m not sure I came anywhere close. I’ve since been lucky to see the band in San Francisco and New York, but none of those shows have been anywhere as great as Riot Fest.


Here, then, is an unlikely collection, and one I never thought I would have the opportunity to share: the Jawbreaker 2017-18 reunion tour, and some of its many highlights to date. Thanks for reading.


“The Boat Dreams from the Hill,” The Rickshaw Shop, San Francisco, August 12, 2017. The first show in 21 years could only have started with “Boxcar,” but it isn’t until “The Boat Dreams from the Hill,” arguably, that the band finds its groove. The crowd goes predictably apeshit. (Blake, at the top of the show: “Alright, hey. We’re your local, uh…band. And we’re just as pleased as punch that you came here to spend this evening with us. [applause] I’m using an in-ear monitor this evening, for the first time in my life, so…if I look lost, or unresponsive, you’ll know why….That’s all the patter I came up with in the last 21 years.”


“Accident Prone” live at Riot Fest, Chicago. The audio gives a decent sense of the pounding bass drum and guitar in the mix. Notice the conspicuous absence of cameras and cell phones.


“Bivouac,” Riot Fest. The perfect end to a perfect show.


“Parabola” at the Capitol Theater, Olympia, Washington, November 28, 2017. “A song for mean people.” Jawbreaker returns to the site of their last show, in 1996.


“Condition Oakland” at Brooklyn Steel, February 28, 2018. With Jack Kerouac/Steve Allen sample. Great sound.


“Want” at Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, January 14, 2018. I mean, come on.


“Ache” with Katie Crutchfield from Waxahatchee at the Hollywood Palladium, March 8, 2018. The first time the song had ever been performed this way, incredibly.

-Ronen Givony

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