“You guys like guitar solos?” Melina Duterte asked a quiet and content crowd. “This is the part of the set where every song has a guitar solo.” And girl, did it deliver.
The band kicked off its set with “Turn Into,” the closing track of its album of the same name. Jay Som is Duterte’s musical project; she was joined onstage by a touring band composed of several of her closest friends. Soft lights in vibrant hues of teal and yellow, purple and red spotlighted Duterte, paralleling the calm but upbeat energy that filled Rickshaw Stop. Shortly after singing the lyric, “I’m coming home,” during “Turn Into,” Duterte shared her love of the Bay Area. “It’s so nice to be back in the West Coast,” she said. “It really is the best coast.” The crowd should settle in, she joked, because the band would be playing a three-hour show. In fact, Jay Som’s discography and positive vibes would’ve been enough to last until sunrise.
After “Ghost,” another track off of Turn Into, the band played “Everybody Works” — the title track off its 2017 release Everybody Works. Despite remaining hushed between songs, the crowd gently sang and hummed along to almost every tune. Rhythm guitarist Oliver Pannell joked, “Anyone who’s here and stoned: we can tell.” The crowd giggled lightly in response before grooving along to “forget about it kid,” which featured striking distortion during Duterte’s guitar solo.
“Our Red Door” followed soon after as dim rays of yellow and purple scanned the venue. The song felt like a sonnet of self-love, with simple lyrics that emphasized the understated beauty of Duterte’s voice. Songs from Turn Into were more low-fi and individualist, whereas tunes off Everybody Works had a sense of community. The energy of the latter came through in tracks like “The Bus Song,” during which the band asked the crowd to sing along. “We’re in f–kin’ San Francisco, I know you guys are gonna be the loudest,” laughed Pannell. The crowd shouted “but I like the bus!” emphatically and with loving reverence for Jay Som during the song’s chorus.
The band appeared to enter its comfort zone with “SLOW” — a cathartic good-mood tune containing another killer guitar solo. Afterwards, Duterte described the band’s time on tour: “We’ve had about 40 performances … and you know what? We’ve got our asses kicked.” She was particularly grateful for moments in which fans shared how much her music means to them. “I’ve had time to think about this record, and when I made it, I didn’t really think about what other people would think about it. … It’s very nice to come back to the Bay Area, where all the support has been. I’m very grateful for that.” It was a heartwarming moment that underscored Duterte’s gratitude.
Jay Som’s music is healing — a sense that’s only made stronger by the positive energy the band exudes live. “This is a safe spot, dance if you feel like it,” Pannell told the crowd before the band played “I Think You’re Alright.” The 2016 single calls to mind themes of finding and returning home, or building a home within yourself and your support system.
The band closed the night with “1 Billion Dogs,” which transformed into a nostalgic jam session, featuring an endearingly messy cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana. The authenticity of the band members’ friendship shined throughout the night, but it peaked in this moment and when Duterte praised her bandmates: “I feel so lucky that I get to go on tour with my best friends. I just love them so much.”
Jay Som’s show highlights just how live performances can enhance a band’s music. Intimate moments with musicians — witnessing the band members’ bonds, hearing them jam to their favorite tunes or learning the stories behind your favorite songs of theirs — can really amplify the meaning behind their work, particularly when with their local community. That experience is euphoric; it leaves you with a blissful post-concert high, and it defined every moment at Jay Som’s show in San Francisco.
Contact Sophie-Marie Prime at [email protected].