When Jointpop frontman, Gary Hector tells the crowd in the Big Black Box at the launch for their new album, Quicksand, “We are just we…no fanfare, no hype,” one recognises that in that wry comment, that in the context of a local music industry, his truths are hard commentaries on our ordinariness. Like the lyrics of the songs on that new album, the pointed perspective of this band approaching two decades in the business is proof that Jointpop is beyond hyperbole, and still takes no prisoners.
The album launch of the sixth album of the band was a celebration of rock ‘n’ roll obstinacy in a land of jam and wine: two hours of solid musicianship and exciting performance that delivered on their promise of “rock ‘n’ roll in yuh cacahole!” The band performed a 21-song set including all 13 songs from the new album plus selections from their previous albums, The Pot Hounds (“Dead Frog Perfume,” “Let’s Pray [for rock ‘n’ roll]”), The Longest Kiss Goodbye (“Please Don’t Tell my Inlaws [I’m an outlaw],” “$oul$ Going Cheap,” “Bleeding Broken Hearts Club”), The January Transfer Window (“The Irony of it All”), Exile, Baby (“Not For Sale”), and their first album, Port of Spain Style (“After Half Past Nine”).
The balance of moods—hard and soft, yin and yang—in the set was reinforced by the use of live strings by a young quartet—The Quick Strings—under the baton of Jean-Marc Aimey on a couple songs ( the ballad “The Irony of It All” and “Lost and Found”), an acoustic passage between electric romps—Hector’s ringing 12-string guitar channelling The Beatles-inspired harmonies on “Down to Me” was a highlight—and the deliberate juxtaposition of “Not For Sale” preceding “$oul$ Going Cheap” to represent two sides of the same coin for local musicians we were told; to be or not to be a sell-out for fame and glory.
The myth of elusive fame is one that Jointpop chooses to encourage. Their enduring legacy is reinforced by years of recording original music, touring internationally and having all the assets of modern music business acumen in place: merchandise sales were ongoing at the venue. CreativeTT assisted in the filming of the set for marketing, enhancing the effective social and print media campaign that preceded the show. The band benefited from superior sound reinforcement and a professional lighting display apropos to its status. Jointpop shares a space in our limited music “industry” with other stalwarts of originality despite the rebranding of their music as “underground.” Ataklan was given a shout out from the stage, and justifiably so, as a fellow soldier in the record business pursuing original music despite radio airplay desertion for many years.
Karla Gonzales and Natalie Yorke (formerly Shades of Black who were signed to Columbia Records in the 1990s), rechristened that night as The Popettes, sang background vocals and as Hector reminded the audience, they were recipients of a gold record for their work with Kassav. The penultimate song in the set, “Let’s Pray for Rock and Roll” had Hector trading vocal snippets of rock/pop favourites with Gonzales contrasting his Dylan-esque growl with her soulful wail for an extended refrain culminating in loud ovation that settled any discussion that the appeal of this music is circumscribed.
The audience that night represented a snapshot of Trinidad’s multi-everything: young guns and old ones mingled, black and white and everything in between danced together, and their appreciation was palpable. Despite the stoic nature of some in the audience when the jam was moving, and the good-natured ribbing from the front row, as an album launch, this event was effective. As a concert, it was better. Closing the set with a cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes,” the metaphor of that song title was pushed further by the idea that the band serves as a champion for the idea that great music performed well, as it was, is what is needed for wider acceptance.
Gary Hector and company— Damon Homer on lead guitar, Philip Hill on keyboards, Jerome Girdharrie on bass, and Dion Camacho on drums—acknowledged that obsolescence can come from stasis. One recognised show piece performances from Hill on “Wembley”/“Simply Beautiful” (seemingly channelling Rodger Hodgson formerly of Supertramp) and Homer—his bent over posture on solos like Miles Davis in his heyday was the epitome of understatement for a lead guitarist. Mainstream acceptance may be a goal for local rock bands, but on that night, 23 May, Trinidad and Tobago’s music became just that more varied, popular and relevant, and Jointpop became more accessible.
- A version of this article appears in the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian newspapers published as, “Jointpop: T&T’s Rock N Roll Heroes”
© 2015, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.