By Catrin Rees and Natasha Srinivas, Third Year Sociology and Social Policy and Third Year English
They’re back! Bristol’s smoothest society has returned! After a short hiatus over a long, dreary, and seemingly endless January exam season, Jazz, Funk, and Soul Society (JFS) have come swinging back into our weeknights with their first jam of 2022 and a guest performance from band Zoe’s Shanghai. Surrounded by the many familiar faces of JFS’s loyal appreciators, we felt the sense of home that only an evening like this one could provide. For a few short, sweet hours, dissertations and deadlines felt far, far away, and we were swept into the magic of jazz jams and Zoe’s Shanghai. We were there to have a good time and have a good time we most certainly did.
We have to applaud JFS for sticking by their principles, avoiding Mr Wolf’s after they failed to react sufficiently to a number of sexual assault cases. JFS have been seeking new venues to host their weekly jams, places which align with their values of safety and comfort for everyone, so that everyone can enjoy themselves without the anxieties that accompany nights out. (Update: success! now they can be found on Thursday nights at 8 at Steam!)
Arriving a little late, we were disappointed to miss the house band’s opening set, but thankfully there was plenty more to hear from the members during the always-impressive jam that followed. People hopped out of the crowd, impressively spontaneous, to join the band on stage, putting on performances where neither vocals nor instrumental solos failed to amaze. With a bit of Dutch courage one of us even stepped up to the mic and joined the band for what people are describing as ‘the performance of the century: beautiful, flawless, awe-inspiring, magical.’ (Yes, we are maintaining journalistic neutrality – no bias has impacted this review despite what you may be thinking, and there is no need to factcheck this statement.)
By the end of the jam, we were feeling giddy from the thrill of the long-awaited and much missed sensation of live jazz (and of course the help of a pint or two). And, like the crowd around us, we were buzzing with anticipation for Zoe’s Shanghai, the incredibly well dressed and très très cool French band. On a side-note, we were very taken with their hat-game which might just prove that bucket hats should never go out of fashion.
The band put everyone at ease, telling us the stories behind some of their songs and encouraging us to dance “because we’re alive” – a statement which, in any other context might have made us groan, but was the perfect thing to say in that moment. Seeing live music still feels like a novel event after so many months of cancelled concerts and postponed dates, and a mutual sense remains, for both audiences and performers alike, of how surreal it is to experience or play live music. Although it sounds corny, the pandemic has made us realise the importance of crowd energy and interaction with performers that make a gig memorable, and we have only gratitude that we can once again go to gigs after the uncertainty of the pandemic. The band seemed to share these feelings with us, appearing just as excited to take the stage, as we were to see them on it.
Zoe’s Shanghai’s music lends itself perfectly to a live setting. Hearing their songs, many for the first time, was almost hypnotic, definitely enhanced by the unique characteristics of experiencing them in person. The bass rippled through the room and Zoé Renié’s smooth vocals coated the room in an ethereal glow, carrying us almost into a trance. It felt reminiscent of lying in the grass whilst the summer sun warms your skin, and a light breeze rustles the trees above you.
The evening was a great way to kick off a new term for JFS, and Zoe’s Shanghai’s performance was truly wonderful. We can’t wait to see what JFS has in store for us next, and until then we will be impatiently waiting for our next jazz fix.
Featured image: Catrin Rees
Are you excited for the return of JFS?