Jungle, my favorite band in the universe, first caught my attention after watching “Nerve,” the 2016 film starring Emma Roberts and Dave Franco. Toward the film’s end, Vee (Roberts) sits on a ferry and Ian (Franco) rides the subway, both on their way to the truth or dare game’s finale. Supplementing that scene is Jungle’s “Lucky I Got What I Want.”
I’ve been following the seven-piece British collective — headed by Tom “T” McFarland and Joshua “J” Lloyd-Watson — ever since and have fallen in love over and over again with its music, so much so that last week Facebook notified me I’m one of Jungle’s top fans and asked if I’d like to display this badge. Of course I would — what an honor. I spent 56 hours of 2018 listening to Jungle. So thanks for that badge, Facebook. How’d you know?
Maybe Facebook stalked my calendar when I marked it for this concert six months ago — that or it has my Spotify data, except I didn’t connect the two.
In October, Jungle announced its tour for “For Ever,” the group’s second album released in September 2018. I was stoked it’d be stopping in Chicago and immediately — and I mean the moment I read the announced Chicago date on its Instagram — I marked my calendar.
After waiting those gruesome months for this concert, the day arrived. Obviously. I wouldn’t be here writing this column otherwise. At 10 p.m. March 13, seven impeccably dressed, British artists filed out from Metro’s backstage one by one, each taking their places on the smoke-filled, brightly lit stage.
Jungle stuck to a dress code of laid-back ‘70s vibes. Backup singers Andro Cowperthwaite and Rudi Salmon flanked Tom and Josh, who stood behind synthesizers and microphones on stage. While Rudi wore a warm yellow, pleated dress, Andro bared his chest wearing a khaki jumpsuit, round sunglasses and a tan hat.
It was Tom and Josh’s outfits that made me swoon. Tom wore head-to-toe khaki and a white t-shirt with the words “Who Cares” embroidered in red. Josh had on a mid-length checkered duster with rolled-up, burnt orange corduroys and Dr. Martens chelsea boots. Both men wore multiple signet rings and their ensembles basically came right out of my fashion textbook. I love an understated signet ring and good pair of burnt orange pants.
Can we also take a quick millisecond to talk about how swoon-worthy Josh is with his fashion sense, playful personality and longer hair? On a scale of one to Timothée Chalamet, he’s an 8.5.
But you’re not here to read about Josh’s levels of attractiveness. For an hour and a half, the band blessed its sold-out audience with upbeat tunes, an eye-catching light show and British accents. Jungle has made itself known for putting on a great live performance, and it never fails to disappoint.
As the fog cleared the stage giving way to the instrument and Jungle-filled stage, the intro to “Smile” started and audiences almost immediately began dancing. Each band member seemed to be fueled by this infectious energy — which didn’t dissipate all night — as Josh and Tom were in sync leaning into each other while riffing on the guitar, and Andro and Rumi joined others dancing the night away.
Jungle’s Metro show was its second concert I attended — the first one being Lollapalooza this past summer. I immediately texted my mother after that show screaming that my life was complete because the show was incredible. While most musicians jump around on stage for an hour belting along to their songs, members stand still while playing their instruments and singing.
Going to concerts, I’ve found the best artists sing better live than in a recorded album. Yes, albums are often fine-tuned and edited to perfection, but when a musician can sing properly in concert, they’re set. Jungle’s live performances sound as if you’re listening to one of its albums — that rawness is there.
Teasing the crowd, an extended outro to “Drops” blared on the speakers echoing in every crevice of Metro as Jungle walked off stage after the electric performance only to return for a double encore of “Busy Earnin’” and “Time.” Tom looked radiant and humbled as he scanned the venue after the final lyric of the night was uttered.
I bought a lapel pin and t-shirt to commemorate the night and after walking out of the theater, a sense of longing settled deep in my heart as if something I loved was taken away from me. The event I had waited so long for was over and it was time to go back to normal life.
Jungle has my heart and soul. I don’t have some sappy story for you about how Jungle got me through a breakup or some other sad time in my life. Jungle is expert in feel-good rhythms, bright synthesizers and lazy tunes, but it’s the sometimes sad and blunt lyrics set to that sound that makes Jungle, well, Jungle.
“Heavy, California,” the most popular song off “For Ever,” is the brightest song on the album with its upbeat tempo, but the lyrics tell a story of longing for something you can’t have: “So heavy, California / I will love you, can’t afford you / They say heaven’s waiting for you / So I’m headed for California.”
A sense of nostalgia washes over me when I listen to Jungle, and I’m transported back to my childhood road trips, baking and long walks on beach boardwalks. Its sound has a certain timeless elegance similar to many of the songs from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. The band’s Instagram — @jungle4eva — with retro and film photos, further cements that image.
I’d travel across an ocean to see this band perform. England’s Glastonbury Music Festival announced its 2019 lineup last week and Jungle is performing. If only I can go. Lollapalooza, please book Jungle again this summer.