Jungle at the Fox was essentially a futuristic disco garden of sound and lights. As of the time of this writing, I’m deep in-between days of the rescheduled Outside Lands Festival in Golden Gate Park and I can’t help feeling that not booking the semi-EDM, retro-funk-pop group Jungle at OSL, was a miss. Regardless, the band’s two-day engagement at Fox Theater bumped right up against the dates of the festival, so, it feels like it was all part of one big early Christmas present.
It’s easier to say what Jungle isn’t versus what it is. Jungle is not typical electronic music, especially by today’s standards. It’s far too live and authentic to be categorized as “house” but they’re not quite a typical band either. They eliminate the line between a classic guitar-and-drums sound and the modernized dudes-with-wires-and-boxes style of club music. The two frontmen and founders, Josh and Tom, hold down twin DJ tables, sing lead vocals, and play guitars in front. They’re flanked by a 5-piece backing band, covering everything from hand percussion to gospel and soul backing vocals. I think I saw someone pull out a flute at one point.
They wove their way through one hell of a visually and musically organized, symmetrical set of tightly-packed jams. I was struck by all the hints of influences from multiple decades of sound. There’s a 60s Motown vibe, there are disco-y Bee Gees influences, and over all that, I heard the clean lines of early electronic dance music. I heard influences from Kraftwerk to Pet Shop Boys, to Ace of Base. It’s almost impossible to put it all into one box, which is part of the charm.
Everything about Jungle’s Fox performances felt controlled, measured, despite being rave-levels of high energy. There was the conservation of musical time and space, in contrast with typical original DJ music. Songs would reach a crescendo quickly, then just go chorus, chorus, BAM! ending like a light switch turned off, with no cooldown or outro. There wasn’t anything frenetic or wild. Just elegant, attention-grabbing dance music; effective, simple on the surface, but with layered sounds sweeping over the stage.
Oh, and that stage! Deceptively simple and understated white, yellow, and red lighting gave a feeling of heat… like a hot, well, Jungle! Vintage strobe and temperature changes, with neon and LED straight out of a roller rink, paired perfectly with 3D visual effects. It strikes me that the stage at a lot of dance shows stays cloaked in darkness, pierced only by thin laser lines, but Jungle was in full bright display from the front to the back. The hanging logo over the top of the stage, in their own custom font (not a digital screen, a real sign), was a nice touch.
By the end of the show, I felt I had been to a combination of some evolved early aughts party rock, mixed with a Studio 54 revival. I enjoyed almost everything start to finish, with the exception of the rap vocals from Bas wedged into the collaborative track “Romeo.” The vocals weren’t the problem, it was how they were packaged. Again it’s that inevitable, contractually-obligated pre-recorded video played over the song, while part of the band stands around waiting. I don’t think any group has ever quite gotten this right. I’ll never understand why the industry pushes to showcase a musician that, bottom line, is not live and not anywhere near the show. All respect to Bas as an artist, his bit in the set didn’t fit at all with the lush and intricately balanced lighting, the stage pieces, and the outfits. The pre-record just looked weirdly bright, modern, performed in what looked like his living room.
All in all, this is a band in full maturity, deserving a sustained place at the top of the dance charts. I had SO MUCH fun. I danced to exhaustion. And I’ll be back.
January 27, 2022 – Paris, France – Le Zénith Paris-La Villette
January 28, 2022 – Köln, Germany – Live Music Hall
January 29, 2022 – Brussels, Belgium – Forest National
January 31-February 1, 2022 – Amsterdam, Netherlands – Paradiso
February 3, 2022 – Hamburg, Germany – Große Freiheit 36
February 4, 2022 – Berlin, Germany – Huxleys Neue Welt
📷 by Kristina / Starla