Friday night the 25th anniversary tour for Jawbreaker’s once-maligned but now-revered 1995 major label debut album Dear You rolled into The Wiltern for the first of three nights. 25th anniversary but it’s 27 years you’re thinking? Well the band decided the last 2 years don’t count and, yeah, for many people that checks out.
First up for the evening were LA teen-punk sensations The Linda Lindas, a band for whom the last 2 years really did count. After a few years on the rise in LA playing shows with the likes of Best Coast and Bikini Kill, they took a giant leap when the LA Public Library video of their performance of “Racist, Sexist Boy” blew up spectacularly online and soon they were on late night TV and signed to Epitaph Records and on their way to bigger and better things. Exploding onto the stage with a mix of songs from 2020 EP The Linda Lindas “Never Say Never” and “Monica” (About one of guitarist/vocalist Bela Salazar’s cats) as well as singles like “Claudia Kishi” and “Nino” (About another one of guitarist/vocalist Bela Salazar’s cats) vocal duties passed around the band from song to song as a blazing undercurrent of guitars and drums sped along.
All four members of the band are great singers and quite distinctive and have just the right balance of melody and aggression that makes the music super fun to listen to. Bela and Lucia de la Garza hit you with their tight and focused tones, then bassist Eloise Wong lets loose some super-aggro growls, and then the youngest member of the band drummer Mila de la Garza comes in with her crystal clear and very unique voice, while continuing to hammer away at the drums, two skills I still don’t understand how they can work together. But put her right up there with all the super-impressive drummer/vocalists, especially shining on a cover of the Go-Go’s “Tonite”. The Linda Lindas debut album “Growing Up” comes out April 8.
Next up were LA indie rock vets Best Coast. One of the first shows the band has played in their home city since the 2020 release of the album “Always Tomorrow” it was like that record was finally getting its concert debut. Bethany Cosentino’s voice soared over the band’s intricate instrumentation with Bobb Bruno and his guitars going wild on the right half of the stage. The pumped up Wiltern crowd clamored for more after each song and frequently sang along with each tune, including anthemic “Everything Has Changed” and mellower “For the First Time” from that newest album. Songs from 2010’s “Crazy For You” were featured throughout the set too. The title track led into “Goodbye”, which was dedicated to band mascot, Cosentino’s cat Snacks who sadly passed away in February. The set wrapped up with the driving energy of “When I’m With You” and another big singalong for the all-time classic “Boyfriend”. Check out Pass The Aux’s interview with Bethany Cosentino.
27 years ago Jawbreaker signed to a major label, wrote and produced the album “Dear You” with Green Day producer Rob Cavallo with a bit of a different sound from their previous work, and the response from fans and press alike was… crickets. Soon the band broke up and went about their own projects. But over the last few decades the perception of that album has drastically improved and as emo took off its influence couldn’t be overstated. Thus the 25th anniversary tour where the album finally gets its due.
The band ambled on to stage in front of a huge JAWBREAKER backdrop and in no time tore into “I Love You So Much It’s Killing Us Both”. After the song some folks in front of bassist Chris Bauermeister yelled they couldn’t hear the guitar and hilarity ensued as Singer/Guitarist Black Schwarzenbach explained that if they’re in front of all that bass equipment they’re going to hear bass. And something about getting notes after the first song in LA. “Million”, “Oyster” and “Chemistry” all followed, with Blake playing so hard on Oyster he caused technical difficulties by playing with so much gusto a string on his guitar jumped the saddle.
Things got back on track with one of the most enduring songs from “Dear You”, “Jet Black”. The slightly slower change of pace flowed perfectly into similar-tempo “Basilica” before everything got fired up again for “Save Your Generation”, and the song that got a video when the album came out, “Fireman”. Then, the pre-encore highlight, the eternally sing along-able “Bad Scene, Everyone’s Fault” with the Why Why Oh Why Oh Why chorus and the best ending on the album.
As Adam Pfahler pounded away on the drums, sometimes with a look of total concentration and sometimes with a huge smile on his face, face-masked Bauermeister chugged out basslines on the left and Schawrzenbach growled and guitared on the right, with the extra touring guitarist behind him, and you had to wonder what it was like on the 5th night of this tour after not playing together for so long. Everything sounded good but was it weird, difficult, exciting, fun? It was really hard to tell from the audience. Everyone had their spot on stage and there was surprisingly little interaction visible within the band. Were they communicating telepathically because they’ve all known each other for so long? Or have they been off on their own for so long now that even when they’re back together they’re still in their own spaces? Or maybe it’s always been that way? I’m trying to remember from that time I saw them open for Bad Religion in Schenectady back in the day but I got kicked in the nose in the pit and spent half the show holding ice on my face and don’t remember a lot of that. Luckily most folks at the Wiltern this night were about 20 years past moshpit-age (Maybe 30?) so it was a much safer environment.
The encore kicked off with “Want” from 1990’s “Unfun” and throughout the crowd you could see the groups of Gen-X dads (Let’s say 40% of the audience?), arms around each other’s shoulders, belting it out just like they did back in the day. A few more songs in the encore and wrapped up with “Kiss The Bottle” and then it was over. Until the next night. And the one after that.
Jawbreaker’s tour continues with dates in Denver, Minneapolis, Chicago, Detroit, and throughout the east coast before they’re reunited with the Linda Lindas at New York’s Irving Plaza April 27 – 30. Then on to Atlanta and Nashville. There’s a wide array of openers on the tour, in LA alone Face to Face and Lemonheads played other nights. Descendents, SAMIAM, Built to Spill, Smoking Popes, and comedian Chris Gethard are some of the other openers on the tour and we’re kind of jealous we don’t get to see all those other nights as well, they’re going to be great!
Words and photos by Tim Aarons