British duo Jockstrap kicked off their first ever North American tour at DC9 on November 17th. The intimate show was sold out, offering an escape from the first brutally cold week of DC winter. Georgia Ellery, dressed in an oversized pantsuit with her long blond hair loose around her, stood casually by the merch stand before the show. I did a double take and just barely caught the sly smile she gave as she saw my head swivel. Even in a room full of audience members excitedly awaiting them, the shy pair found it easy to blend in with all of the other twenty-somethings.
Though skilled at making themselves invisible, Georgia Ellery and Taylor Skye look like they’ve jumped out of a Tolkien tale or dropped onto this Earth from a planet much farther away than England. The two evoke the animated unicorn from The Last Unicorn. Both are blond and short with delicate, distracted expressions, which might be a cover for their timidness, but their mystical vibe adds to their appeal. The crowd parted as Ellery and Skye made their way to the stage. When Jockstrap stepped onto the slightly raised floor section that constitutes DC9’s intimate stage, orange and pink lights bathed them in a warm glow, confirming that they were indeed entering this space from another universe.
Jockstrap wasted no time on unnecessary introductions and began the set with “Neon.” Ellery’s golden hair fell in fragile wisps to frame her small face and big blue eyes as her ethereal voice floated through the room. With each opening of her bony jaw, the haunting song filled the venue until its sorrowful closing mantra, “I won’t do this again, to you or anyone,” fell over the crowd.
For most of the show, all that was visible of Taylor Skye was his straw-like mop of hair and the camo jacket he wore as he bent over his synthesizers and samplers, but with his first beat drop the mesmerized crowd remembered they could move, and the room’s energy shifted. Taylor’s playful solo during “Robert” had Ellery hopping around the stage, melting away any tension she might have held during the first moments of the set. Skye and Ellery’s subtle shared glances and mutual expressions of appreciation during the moments in which they spoke to the audience were enough to understand how well the two work together. By the next song, “Greatest Hits”, Georgia couldn’t contain her smile. She reached out her hands and dropped to the floor as the crowd sang back to her.
I Love You Jennifer B, Jockstrap’s most recent release, made up most of the setlist, but some fan favorites from 2018’s Love Is the Key to the City and 2020’s Wicked City were sprinkled here and there. In introducing her violin during “Hayley,” Ellery transformed to reveal yet another version of herself. She comfortably took her violin posture, holding the instrument up to her chin even as she danced and sang and waved her right arm around. She swirled her violin bow in the air, as a conductor would to lead their orchestra with a baton or a wizard would to cast a spell. At last, during “Glasgow”, Ellery let her playfulness shine through her serious, passionate surface. She grinned and gave a little fist pump as the audience sang in tempo: “The days went on and I thought- this is poor rapport / Guess I don’t feel that way about you anymore, baby.” In the flesh, Jockstrap reproduces their glitchy, wistful, and anxious records on stage. At DC9, Georgia Ellery and Taylor Skye brought the existential themes of I Love You Jennifer B to life with Skye’s unwavering focus and Ellery’s outstretched arms. In concert, as on their records, the two have found a way to create a sound characterized by its jagged gracefulness.