The strutting, hip-shaking antics and powerful sounds of front man AJ Eason, along with his fellow G.E.D. Soul Records cohorts, struck downtown St. Louis at around 10:40 p.m. Friday night, sending a shock through the crowd that had everyone's flux capacitors in full swing.
Andrew Muller delivered chunky guitar licks with Tim Hawkins on bass, D. Singleton on drums and Pablo Ahogado on keys. The G.E.D. website refers to the group, which is the Nashville label's most recent project, as "rock 'n' soul," and the ensemble has the upbeat riffs to cover both bases.
Members of AJ & the Jiggawatts shuffle among other G.E.D. acts including Sky Hi, Magic in Threes, the Coolin' System and DeRobert & the Half-Truths -- all cohesive groups with diverse catalogues. With chops developed in one band or another, it's no surprise that whenever these guys get together, an audience ends up on its feet.
Singer AJ Eason, who was born and raised in Memphis, said he was glad to be is St. Louis. "St. Louis is like Memphis with more lotion," he quipped. Not once did the muscular, tattooed vocalist take off his sunglasses throughout the set filled with heavy-hitting jams including "Don't Mess With Me," "Pimp Decisions," and an ode to booze, "Brown Bottle Fever." He did take a break from the microphone to pick up a tambourine and also to sit at a pair of congas for a couple of songs including the encore. And of course there were those Nelly lyrics that he worked into the set as if it were part of the band's normal routine.
Horn players can be heard on some of AJ & the Jiggawatts' recordings, but there were no brass or reeds on the stage Friday night. This absence wasn't a problem, however, as the grittier, stripped-down sound of the Jiggawatts along with AJ's heavily-reverbed vocals are what make them stand apart from the other acts on the G.E.D. label. And they might even sound better live than they do on record -- which is to say they sound amazing.
Funky jams played all throughout the night as DJ Hal Greens, who organized the event, led into AJ & the Jiggawatts' performance and DJ Needles of 88.1 KDHX's "Rawthentic" followed. Fans at Lola were granted a night of incredible soul music, and they didn't even need a time machine to get there.