Jay Watson No ‘Underdog’ as One-Man Band, GUM, Revs Masonic




By DONNA BALANCIA

Jay Watson, known as GUM, keeps all the balls in the air.

It’s not enough that he can sing and play guitar, keyboards and synthesizer, but he does it all at the same time and does it almost flawlessly. And that’s exactly how it went at the Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery Wednesday night.

This modern one-man psych band heads out to play Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn Sunday, then it’s off to play shows in Europe to promote his new album The Underdog. The album is a great visit to prog-rock heaven.

Jay Watson is a solo performer as GUM - Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia
Jay Watson is a solo performer as GUM – Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia

Watson, a tall and commanding multi-instrumentalist perhaps best known for his roles in Pond and Tame Impala, took the stage and captivated a sold-out audience of fans. His new album is called The Underdog, particularly appropriate for this musical juggler.

Jay Watson: A talented multi-instrumentalist - Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia
Jay Watson: A talented multi-instrumentalist – Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia

Surrounded by keyboards and a guitar in arms it seemed like Watson was truly the underdog; a sure bet he would not be able to keep all the music going without a bit of help. It’s no easy feat playing electric guitar and working the pedals, the keyboards and synth and having it all come out in the intricate and beautiful way it’s intended. Watson succeeds.

Kirin Callinan and the shadow of Jay Watson - Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia
Kirin Callinan and the shadow of Jay Watson – Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia

Other than for a brief visitation by the outstanding and outlandish Kirin Callinan, who joined in on the Pond tune “Colder Than Ice,” Watson played the entire night and all the instruments unassisted. But for the few minutes Callinan was on stage, he held the audience attention with his peculiar disjointed arm movements and trademark straight-back sidestep dance moves.

Gum and Callinan - A 'C-C-C-Cold As Ice' reunion - Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia
Gum and Callinan – A ‘C-C-C-Cold As Ice’ reunion – Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia

As he stepped down from the stage, he apologized (to someone above?) for playing that particular ‘Ice’ song amidst the church-like solemnity of the Masonic Lodge. It’s a stark but interesting space, furnished with little more than chandeliers and room-long bench seating lining opposite walls, but the acoustics are great.

GUM rips at Masonic - Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia
GUM rips at Masonic – Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia

Watson’s known for his work in the bands Pond and Tame Impala of course, but his one-man-band performance was remarkable.

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GUM created and played songs off the new album, and he doesn’t forget where they come from,  incorporating references and kudos to everyone from the Australian bands he’s grown up with, to the classics like “Jump into The Fire” by Harry Nilsson

Watson Wakes Up Cemetery Audience

Watson has a great bond with his audience.  With all the tech he’s handling on stage, it’s amazing he can even make eye contact with anyone, yet he connects.  He’s a bit of a throwback musician, he’s got the poise of a rock star and gives a new twist to prog rock sounds of bands like Yes, and Genesis. Watson covered Genesis, pulling out “Misunderstanding,” the steady but heartwrenching song fronted by Phil Collins.

Watson is at once a great technical musician and passionate artist, rocking and stomping like a penned animal anxiously but contentedly trapped within the confines of his keyboards and synthesizers.

He concluded with SIA, which turned the house into a crazy dance party.

One of the other entities which Watson assumes, Pond, returns to the Masonic Lodge in May, a result of a series of rescheduled dates.

Shags Chamberlain composes sections of amazing sound - Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia
Shags Chamberlain composes sections of amazing sound – Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia

Opening for GUM was Shags Chamberlain, a creative synth musician whose avant-garde work might best be appreciated in the sync licensing world.  He creates sounds that amaze and he does something not a lot of artists care to incorporate into the act: He improvises.