Funky Interpretations of Classic Favorites: Jay Som's Special Performance

Known as Melinda Duterte offstage, Jay Som embarked on her solo tour this fall with a pitstop at The Sinclair on Saturday, October 26. Since opening for Peter Bjorn and John, Mitski and Japanese Breakfast in recent years, Duterte has amassed her own loyal supporters following the band’s releases Everbody Works, Turn Into and their latest 2019 album Anak Ko, which translates to "my child" in Tagalog. Hailed for their soft sounds, sad melodies, and danceable riffs, Jay Som’s performance on Saturday delivered and most definitely pleased an eager crowd.

Stand out songs from the Sunday set included Nighttime Drive and The Bus Song. The constant themes of leaving and staying, raw heartbreak and emotional turmoil, and ambivalence carried from one song to the next. Especially The Bus Song, the lyrics "Why dont we take the bus? / You say you don't like the smell / But I like the bus / I can be whoever I want to be" prompted proud, unapologetically loud singing alongside Jay Som.

Throughout the night, Duterte did not speak much on stage and often closed her eyes when belting the lyrics. But when she did engage with the microphone, the audience gave her appropriate space and silence to share her feelings. The less singable moments had special flairs as well. Most memorably, Duterte’s guitar solo in Superbike enlivened her masterful performance and brought the audience on the verge of gasping for joy and reaching out to comfort.

Seeing Jay Som’s live and personalized performance knocks any other recording out of contention. Jay Som riddled the set with new interpretations of old favorites such as a funky renditions of Baybee. By mixing reggae-inspired down beats and pleasant syncopation, Baybee turned into a groovy beat with unexpected additions. The spooky sounds following Baybee provided a distinct eeriness that an audience member could only experience at a live concert. The day a Jay Som live album drops will be a glorious day for all fans around the globe.

Jay Som’s stage presence was tender, loving, and most of all calm. The band members exchanged comical side glances and periodically faced each other to jam out while the audience bopped. The performance nearly felt like watching an inside joke unravel between the band and the audience, as the band slowly branched out and shared the secret.

In the past week, the band announced that the Jay Som Tour would take a short pause while Duterte focuses on her mental health. Recently reports have shown that a majority of independent artists experience some form of mental illness while on the road. Her announcement hopefully inspires future artists to normalize mental illness on tour and we wish Jay Som a quick and healthy return.

Jess Eng is a DJ for Blues. Photo Credits by Jess Eng.