"Captivating." says Jeff Brigham - CPR
"..this trio connects through raw emotion." T. Flamm -Illinois Entertainer.
Emmet Austin - Vocals/Bass
Scud Peterson - Drums
Cleveland James - Guitars
TJO and a Thin Jacket
The wind had really picked up and my right ear felt as if it could had fallen off from fear of frostbite (Chicago winters can be inconsiderate to say the least). Reassuring myself the ear was still there, I hurried my steps toward The Elbo Room. I could see Jack Frost himself through the glass door giggling and pointing at me once I was finally inside. Looking at his tiny, cold face, I felt anger and pity all in the same moment.
Alas, I was a little early, so I sat at the small bar and talked shop with the owner, a curt, portly man who smoked a cigar, the smell from which suggested something sinister. Holding my Shirley Temple with two hands, I grinned and squinted cowardly at a man who could physically crush me with a grimace. When I asked when the The Jacobson Organ was to play, he smiled and told me to ask the chap stationed at the door holding the ink pad and stamp and who nodded his head a lot. Away I went, lucky to be alive that night, haunted by a frigid storybook character and a man as real as the red cherry in my drink.
I dug out five dollars and gave it to the fellow at the door leading down into the dungeonous basement of the place. There's a certain charm to that cold, extremely dark place, designed by a maniacal architect. Nearly hitting my head several times on metal beams and concrete slabs located in the most unreasonable places, I eventually found a somewhat comfortable point from which to watch the band.
Just as I finished my drink, the boys in the band came out wearing nothing but cowboy hats and diapers for older folks with "control problems." I chuckled a bit. (As rumor has it, the week before at the U.S. Beer Co., the drummer had worn an enormous tiger costume.) The band had a small table and chair set out for a man to sit and eat cereal on stage during the performance. Looks as if they treat their roadies quite well.
To kick off the show, the band reached deep into their songbook and produced "Junkyard Journey," a raucous tune with a killer instrumental jam frothing into the red zone in the end. The song ended on an uncued dime, a bit of a trademark I was to discover.
In general, TJO have their roots in what could be called hard rock pop, although playing songs with only one chorus, opening burning bridges, and what-the hell-was-that bass solos, they work the genre like Pop Rock 101 dropouts who have no intention of returning but instead are aiming to make a mockery of it. Another 101 no-no TJO apparently has not embraced is "proper" song length. The band eased out of three-minute ditties and blasted through ten-minute trips. As I danced, I heard enough hooks from the songs to satisfy handless pirates worldwide, easy. Either way, the adventurous tunes seem to invite you into a car and then drop you off on the side of town you've only heard about. Humorous songs are delivered in a serious fashion. And with the outfits, one can see that the boys don't take their more serious material too darn seriously. Their sound winks at you before it knocks you over.
Scud, something of a cross between Keith Moon and Tommy Lee, busily kept time with accurately placed quads, double bass, woodblocks, and anything else he could muster from his well-equipped kit . Austin's bass playing incorporated chords and windmills and a broken string mid-set. All par for his course. Cleveland James' guitar set up is deceivingly simplistic. Someone forgot to tell him that his band was playing rock and roll, because he often ignored power chords and kept any gaps in the sound filled with colorful, ofttimes melodic spackle he applied liberally. Vocally, the push in Austin's voice is strong, urgent, and whiskey throated (a little like Neil Diamond after a long morning drinking mimosas to shake off what the night before had left just behind his eyes). Lyrically speaking, he used tongue-in-cheek humor and deadpan apathy, suggesting spoiled situations and ideals that could be salvaged as long as you bring with you some sense of humor.
Overall, the sound was sweet and crunchy and so palpable you could have put it in your shirt pocket and taken it to work the next day for lunch. The band's set bounced through themes of personal hygiene, subliminal messages, heavy addictions, and choking relationships, and with an engaging instrumental jam to close the set, the band asserted that they can flat-out play. It was clearly a group effort, confirmed musically and even visually by their use of the initials of The Jacobson Organ, one letter assigned to each member, attached to the front of their cowboy hats. If the audience wasn't sold at first, by the time the last note resonated off the back concrete slab, they wanted a sticker.
For fans of good "ol' school" underground rock, TJO has created for themselves and their listeners an inviting musical niche to visit that is decorated somewhere beyond the emotional rock and turntable trickery that dilutes much of today's music.
As I headed back out into the Chicago wind, I two-stepped along the walk, humming a TJO tune (that embedded its self somewhere in my head for the next several days). Jack Frost was loitering by my car and was clearly drunk and possibly depressed. When he saw me, he leaned against the fender of my car and said quietly, "I should be nipping at noses. You know what I'm saying. And look at me now." I patted him on his small back and said, "Get off my car."
Grind The Organ Weekly
Check out the artist's website:
1. This One
2. Plots to Destroy Me
7. Your Daily Hypnotic Suggestions