Isaw JW Ridley for the first time a few months ago by chance. Ten Fé were headlining Oslo (Hackney, London), and the young South London-based art school graduate was opening for them. It happens, from time to time, to find myself stuck with a tune (or two…) in my head for days and days, after a gig. And that was clearly the case, reason why I was genuinely looking forward to seeing Jack Ridley playing his first headline show in the heart of Stoke Newington, at The Waiting Room.
Hak Baker has just taken the stage, whilst I sip my beer and take my place at the venue. He looks quite nervous, fingerpicking on his acoustic guitar and singing with a quite unique style that sounds to me like a softer version of The Streets. What follows up is definitely not what I was expecting. Jamie Lee fronts indie rock band Money, but his support act to JW Ridley is not about music. He interacts with the audience while reading poems, quoting Bukowski and mixing his own writing with… porn magazines. He moves in between alcoholism, the intricacies of sexual orientation, anxiety, and depression, right in front of his parents, and on his birthday. People seem to like him and he ends his set while the crowd sings ‘Happy Birthday’.
JW Ridley takes the stage shortly after. His set starts with the unreleased ‘Pan/Palms‘, which is a banger, then his live band (bass and drums) joins him on stage for ‘Somewhere Else’. Jack is visibly excited and his slight shyness fades away in a matter of minutes, right when he introduces his brand new tune, ‘Blitz’. Thankful to everyone for being there, he plays another unreleased track, ‘Jaguar Spring’, that moves fast between sharp bass lines and clean drum patterns. Jack’s slender fingers pick delicately on the guitar’s strings and I feel like his music sounds even deeper when live. It flows slowly and blends those hints of post-punk with fragile and melancholic dreamy soundscapes. ‘Everything (Deathless)’, Ridley’s first single, lights up The Waiting Room. It’s not the 8-minute full version I literally adore, but that’s enough.
The finale is all about ‘1990’, the emotional semi-acoustic number released no longer than a couple of weeks ago. Jack stands alone on stage, his guitar in delay, while the piano loop plays in the background. His voice, almost inaudible at the beginning, grows and builds into an astonishing climax. “I would keep playing, but I don’t have any more songs, guys…” he says at the end. He smiles and steps down the stage to receive a well-deserved praise.