Julia Jacklin / Black Belt Eagle Scout Mod Club, Toronto ON, April 28
Published Apr 29, 2019Originally scheduled for the Horseshoe Tavern, Julia Jacklin's show got moved to the sleeker, larger Mod Club, which she filled with her immaculate, bittersweet folk-rock songs for a sold-out audience. In support of her fantastic second album, Crushing, the Sydney, Australia-based singer-songwriter has been gradually making her way towards becoming a household name in indie-folk and alt-country circles.
Katherine Paul, leader of Black Belt Eagle Scout, started off the night with a land acknowledgement before launching into "Just Lie Down," from her debut album, Mother of My Children, which was recently re-released by Saddle Creek. Raised on the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community reservation in Washington and now based in Portland, Paul's fermented guitar-rock had the anxious discord of grunge while channelling the invigorating healing energy of the drumming music that she grew up with.
The four-piece played "Soft Stud" and "Loss & Relax" with a punk-rock ethos, with Paul's crunchy guitar tones conveying mountainous heartbreak and grief. On Black Belt Eagle Scout's final song, "Sam, A Dream," Paul's soft-spoken elegance quickly turned into her shredding the extended outro, her hair swinging.
Jacklin, flanked by members of Toronto band the Weather Station (who were her backing band for her North American tour), took to the stage and slowly eased into Crushing's beautiful, sombre opening song, "Body." Ben Whiteley's plodding bass lines rolled like the hills as Jacklin's soft warble fearlessly exposed her vulnerability. Jacklin's scalding wails on "Leadlight," from her first album Don't Let the Kids Win, felt rightfully anthemic as Ian Kehoe's contoured snare hits directed Jacklin's wilful confessional. Jacklin's silky vocals on "Don't Know How to Keep Loving You" were wonderful and sweetly peaceful in spite of the heartbreaking content of the song.
Then, Jacklin unleashed Crushing's rockier tunes "You Were Right" and "Pressure to Party," which invoked fellow countrymate Courtney Barnett — they were deliberately loud while remaining sophisticated, highlighting Jacklin's impressively adaptable voice. In the middle of the set, Jacklin led the poignant "When the Family Flies In" with keyboardist Will Kidman, while she hovered across the quiet stage to delicately alleviate pressure. Continuing with the hushed atmosphere, Jacklin performed Don't Let the Kids Win's title track solo, with only her guitar.
Written on masking tape on Jacklin's guitar read "Julia's guitar" and "You got this!!!" the latter of which was either a message for the audience or for herself — probably both, as Jacklin's riveting songwriting is both empowering and hopeful for her listeners. Jacklin confirmed this on her last song of the evening, "Comfort," as she quietly sang, "You'll be okay, you'll be alright, you'll get well soon, sleep through the night."