"The Boat Dreams From the Hill." That's it. Of course it's "Boat." The first song that Jawbreaker plays live in 21 years, a song of yearning for one's more active days, of a new life, and of beginning again — that's how they start their set.
And of course it's at the Ivy Room — a tiny 200-capacity dive bar in the East Bay with neon signs and a broken bathroom sink. Not at the Civic Auditorium, or the Warfield Theater. Just a small get-together with friends, a warm-up for their Riot Fest date, a chance to drink and hug and catch up: we're having this party, please come.
In a short seven-song set, it's like nothing has changed for Jawbreaker since their last tour in 1996. Chris cracks jokes and scratches off a lottery ticket between songs. Blake recites "Ode on a Grecian Urn" by Keats and waxes rhapsodic about The Cure's Disintegration. Adam anchors it all in propulsive fills. They are still good. Damn good.
"While you've been having children and suffering in the real world, I've been in my cryochamber thinking of material for this comeback."
Reunions are, by nature, as much a reflection on how you've aged as any aging on the band's part. They play "West Bay Invitational," and it hits you. Maybe you still see Jawbreaker on four hours' sleep like you once routinely did, but now, you're not tired from drinking Oly, smoking GPCs and talking shit on the back porch — you're tired from working past midnight and spending the entire day in meetings. Why try to gauge if Jawbreaker changed? We all changed.
"With so many emotions in the world, we had to limit some of the material tonight because we were afraid of what could be unleashed."
The other thing is: during "Condition Oakland" and "Jet Black," you realize you've imagined, for years, how monumental a Jawbreaker reunion would be. The world cannot allow you to forget it. But at the Ivy Room, the place where you danced with your wife before you were married, where you drank too many martinis, and now, where old friends turn up around every corner, it feels normal. Jawbreaker is just three people playing together, ten feet away. The soundtrack of your life, sure. But somehow, after all this buildup, it's a beautiful gift instead of a blaring headline.
"Where is the bro that can admit to crying in the fetal position hoping for change in this world?"
Dear You songs come next: "Chemistry," "Save Your Generation." You think of the people who texted you feverishly once word of the show got out; or your friend Nick, who came to the Ivy Room at 5:30, ordered a beer and then tried to hide out in the bathroom stall for three hours, but got caught and thrown out by the bartender. There's been a crowd of 30 or so people outside on the sidewalk all night who raced down here, just listening outside, not on the list. But at this point, the staff at the door simply start letting people in.
Everyone's here now. There's only one song left to play, a foregone conclusion, really: "Boxcar," with the chorus sung so loud by the entire room that it washes away all decades-old drama of signing and breaking up and leaving everyone to wonder what the hell happened over the course of seven joyful, cathartic years when Jawbreaker was alive and kicking. And then it's over.
People file out. Catch their breath, order another beer. You run into Blake, sitting on the floor near the one-foot-high stage, and tell him you can't believe it.
"I can't believe it either," he says, beaming. "I never thought I'd see the day that my cool band would play in Albany."
Jawbreaker has some other things going on. More photos below; all video and photos by Gabe Meline.