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Jawbreaker reunites, reinvigorates punk rock at The Fillmore

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JONATHAN HALE | STAFF

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MARCH 31, 2022

Extraterrestrial synths echoed through The Fillmore as the lights gradually dimmed, a few flickers illuminating the stage like stars in the night sky. Refracting the deep blue light, crystalline chandeliers hung daintily overhead, dousing the venue in an incandescent haze. Otherworldly, each electric pulse seemed the prelude to a second coming, setting the stage for Jawbreaker’s reawakening after 26 years in the darkness. 

Watching Jawbreaker perform is akin to traveling back through time. A punk-rock mainstay of the mid-90s, the band captivated audiences with its punchy yet personal lyricism layered over searing instrumentation. Touring with Nirvana and releasing four studio albums, Jawbreaker solidified itself as a force to be reckoned with, only to disband in 1996. 

Since reuniting almost five years ago, the band has now set out to celebrate the belated 25th anniversary of its last album Dear You. On the night of March 26, Jawbreaker enraptured The Fillmore with renewed life, seeming to thaw the ice of time. 

“Can you dig it?” lead singer Blake Schwarzenbach said into the microphone, an immediate roar rising from the floor. Red lights poured into the audience as the electric guitar sent resounding waves through the venue. Gritty and textured, Schwarzenbach’s voice remained true to the band’s recordings. The musician may have aged, but he remained radiant with vibrant, volatile grunge. 

The band members rarely strayed from their fixed positions, yet they captivated the crowd with their confident command over the stage. Schwarzenbach stood in a wide-legged power stance as he strummed on the electric guitar, occasionally lifting up on his toes and hovering over the microphone with ownership and purpose. During lengthy riffs, he’d rest the instrument on his leg, leaning over as the notes soared higher. All the while, his arms remained tense and unrelenting, each string kept under their constant control. 

During “Condition Oakland,” Schwarzenbach surrendered to the sound, crouching in the darkness while the recorded voice of Jack Kerouac echoed through the venue. Reading excerpts from his poem “October in the Railroad Earth,” the late writer conveyed his disenchantment with the industrial landscape and its manifestations in San Francisco. Layered over the howling guitar and palpitating drumbeat, the moment was at once rugged and beatific. Time stood frozen, unmasking truths that lingered over the bay — inviting all to partake in this naked lunch. 

With his absurd sense of humor, Schwarzenbach regularly addressed the crowd — much to its confusion and delight. As the musician revealed, he spent quarantine in a rabbit hole of Scandinavian police procedural dramas, enraptured by the layered plotlines and psychological twists. The more he consumed, the more he visualized himself in one of the final scenes. “Get this piece of shit out of here,” he’d say with an air of melodrama, suavely leading the culprit away.

Eager to drink in every moment, the crowd reveled in Jawbreaker’s revival, projecting luminous energy that further sustained the band’s new life. The audience cheered at the beginning of each song and punched the air to the beat, becoming one with the sound which consumed them. 

During Schwarzenbach’s solo performance of “Unlisted Track,” the crowd wholeheartedly screamed along, magnifying the song’s dynamic disillusionment. At the end of the night, there was fervent demand for an encore. “Ten more songs,” an eager concertgoer began chanting from the back of the room, sending anticipatory waves through the venue.

In a four-part finale, Jawbreaker gave its all, screaming and soaring late into the night. “Accident Prone” proved a fan favorite as the band reflected on past mistakes with uninhibited candor and unhinged instrumentation. When the music stopped and the fans trickled out into the cold San Francisco air, the energy readily flowed with them, painting the streets with spirited vigor and punk-rock flare. 

Jawbreaker may have taken a sustained hiatus, but it refuses to be lost in the annals of time. Instead, the band successfully melts the gap between past and present, excavating the vitality preserved in the frost.

Lauren Harvey covers music. Contact her at [email protected].
LAST UPDATED

MARCH 30, 2022


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