Jamaican Queens // Handlebar // 22.07.13
Jamaican Queens—a Detroit-based band making some stellar Trap Pop music—played Toronto’s very cozy, very narrow, very lax about bringing in outside food, Handlebar.
The group opened with the fourth track off of Wormfood (2013), “Can’t Say No To Annie.” It’s catchy and a little more pop-heavy than their other tracks—a good way of enticing anyone not familiar with the band to stick around for the set.
During “Kids Get Away” there was some mouth-to-microphone action, with Ryan Spencer (vocalist) curling his lips around the metal. Maybe that’s just part of the performance, or maybe he was trying to prevent the electric guitar (his acoustic was broken) from drowning out the vocals.
“This is, like, our most Pavement set ever,” said Spencer. The Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, Slanted and Enchanted comparisons were apt, and I actually didn’t mind the distortion; it gave the trap pop band a sound different from the recordings on Wormfood, transporting them into a realm of gritty vibes.
The tech issues also showed off Spencer’s talent as a multi-tasking musician: he was able to work the sampler, keep the bass player and drummer on time by way of snapping his fingers, bite that microphone singing so intensely, and cleverly kill some of the guitar’s distortion—like by laying his hand down over the strings immediately after strumming.
They continued with Wormfood songs, playing “Asleep At The Wheel,” “Caitlin,” and the spacey, surreal “Wellfleet Outro.” Eventually, though, Spencer was all, “Yeah, fuck the guitar, man.” He ditched it for the last song—“Water”—which he dedicated to Matt, and to Sean of Sean Nicholas Savage, that night’s headliner.
Jamaican Queens could no doubt succeed in filling a larger venue. But by condensing the band, audience, and music into such tight quarters, their songs gained an overwhelming presence. It was humid and loud, impossible not to be absorbed into the show, giving a double meaning to their genre of trap pop.