Jake Bugg Proves Worth the Wait at Rickshaw Stop, 1/18/13

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All photos by the author.
Jake Bugg at Rickshaw Stop
By ANGELA RAIFORD

Jake Bugg
Valerie June
Friday, Jan. 18, 2013
Rickshaw Stop

Better than: Catching up on the American Idol auditions.

By 9:40 p.m. it started to feel like this might be a setup. In spite of signage for a Root Bugg Float drink special and a few English voices ringing through the crowd, we wondered if a huge ploy to bring in an audience for a crap DJ set might be underway.

Opener Valerie June had yet to reach Rickshaw Stop's stage, despite an advertised start time of 9 p.m.

Outside, a teenage girl was denied entrance for lack of proper ID. "But it's my school ID!" she pleaded. The doorman, wearing a leather jacket adorned with two 2012 World Series pins, unlit cigarette in his mouth, was not in the mood. "I need something with an age on it lady! Step aside." He let her amass a good amount of tears in her eyes before her father, next in line, vouched for her age.

The venue boasted an astounding number of older men in the crowd, far too many to all be accompanying boy-crazed daughters. If any of these younger ladies (a sparse sight) were looking for an older man, it was the perfect night for it.

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Valerie June
When June finally appeared on stage around 10 p.m., her heavy Tennessee accent was immediately muffled by the crowd's conversations. Most of the audience just wasn't willing to quiet down for her 30-minute set. The music, a straight shot to the origins of American blues, didn't quite sell itself for the Rickshaw. It seemed better suited to open mic night at a coffee shop.

Her stage banter, reminiscent of psychic warnings from Aunt Mozelle in the 1997 classic Eve's Bayou, wasn't rewarding either. "A lot of dead people walking around," she mumbled to the audience. Due to her small voice it's possible no one past the first few rows heard her. She repeated the line again without any extra context before moving into a new song.

By the time Jake Bugg came out at 11 p.m., wearing his permanent stone face, it seemed like a lot of naps were taking place in the upper balcony. Couples also began using the old pedicabs and lounge furniture as makeout areas. Signs of an energized audience didn't appear until the set officially started, kicking off with "Kentucky" and moving into "Love Me the Way" and "Trouble Town."

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The edge in Bugg's voice, which draws comparisons to Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys, was enough to get everyone at least swaying amid his standstill stage presence. With little chatter and an open stage, there was room for jest, but Bugg didn't take part, instead giving a simple thank you to the fans and to San Francisco. Being 18 with a debut record doesn't reel in charm on its own anymore, but his romantic folk didn't need anything else.

There was a sense of progression through the 45-minute set, with lyrics like, "Everyone I see just wants to walk with gritted teeth/ But I just stand by and I wait my time." But it was Bugg's raspy emotion, not his songwriting, that kept the audience rapt. And that was worth the wait.

Critic's Notebook

By the way: This was Jake Bugg's first live show in San Francisco and last leg of his North American tour. He'll be back in March to showcase at SXSW after a round of concerts in Europe and Japan.

That moment when Jake Bugg thinks he's had a long career already: "I'm going to play a couple of my older songs by myself."

Setlist:
Kentucky
Love Me the Way
Trouble Town
Seen it All
Ballad of Mr. Jones
Someone Told Me
Country Song
Simple as This
Slide
Two Fingers
Taste It
Fire
Lightning Bolt
--
Broken
Killing Floor (Jimi Hendrix)




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