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Saturday, May 18, 2024
Julia Jacklin performs for Madison audience on a personal level. 

Julia Jacklin performs for Madison audience on a personal level. 

Julia Jacklin brings up-and-coming indie sound to Madison

Australian artist-to-watch Julia Jacklin is a fresh voice in the music industry—so fresh that she has yet to release her first album. That said, when she introduced herself to Madison on Wednesday night at The Frequency, she seemed familiar somehow, as if she were a cool and slightly older neighbor I had seen around, but was only now just getting to know.

Jacklin rocked a badass school-girl aesthetic in her signature white Reebok classics, crew socks, plaid miniskirt, t-shirt and scarlet lips. Her blonde, wavy locks were matted down like she had slept all day, rolled out of bed and gone straight to her show. This unassumingly cool aura Jacklin projected paired well with The Frequency’s paint-chipped, duct-taped and sticker-laden stage.

The audience gave Jacklin their undivided attention during her stripped-down, nine-song set. She was joined on stage by her usual drummer, Tom, and the two of them ditched percussion altogether in favor of just guitar, bass and sugary sweet harmonies. Vocally, Jacklin was all warmth and butter. She showed impressive voice control while avoiding rigidity; I was pleasantly surprised by her willingness to experiment with phrasing and delivery. For instance, she kept the crowd on its toes when she slowed down a fan-favorite song “Coming of Age,” pushing its lyrics to the forefront of our attention in doing so.

Lyrically, I found Jacklin’s words much easier to discern in-person than in her studio recordings. This helped me appreciate her music on another level. As lovely as Jacklin’s voice is, her songwriting takes the cake. Unexpected lyrics comprise many of her songs and articulate her personal growth over the past few years. During “Coming of Age,” written prior to her breakthrough in music, Jacklin sang determinedly about needing to find a girl who would make her “toes curl.” In other (less creative) words, these lyrics express a desire to find a new artist to look up to, someone to inspire progression in Jacklin’s music before it becomes too late.

This panic Jacklin felt about running out of time to make a name for herself manifested prominently as a theme in her debut album, Don’t Let The Kids Win. A new song she premiered for her Madison audience, “Will I Be A Mother,” also features the passing of time as a prevalent theme. Jacklin ponders whether or not she will change in tandem with time, imagining scenarios where her body changes, but her mind remains the same, and vice versa. “Will I ever be a mother or will I always be a child?” she contemplates in the chorus. Though ironically, nothing during Jacklin’s show, apart from the vulnerable lyrics she let loose, conveyed this sense of nervousness about her present or future. In fact, Jacklin’s overall demeanor exuded something like removed maturity from the tension she historically imposed on herself in placing deadlines on her life goals.

Earlier this week, I wrote a piece questioning how the 25-year-old alt-country songstress made such a rapid come-up in the music industry. Out of the countless talented musicians in the world, only a handful of them will sign with prominent record labels and tour internationally as Jacklin is doing now. However, seeing her perform live brought clarity to this situation. Jacklin is a true artist in her ability to connect with an audience and make them feel something genuine.

For the first time ever at a concert, I cried a little, mostly because of Jacklin’s ability to bring her audience right to her emotional level during any given song. Lyrics I did not expect to relate to, and did not feel especially connected to when I listened to their studio versions, resonated deeply with me when she sang them live. This happened twice. I hit the ground hard with Jacklin during “L.A. Dream,” and then again during her closing number, “Don’t Let The Kids Win,” when she sang, “And I’ve got a feeling that this won’t ever change/ We’re gonna keep on getting older/ It’s gonna keep on feeling strange.”

I have yet to experience a time-related existential crisis (I’m only 19!), but my eyes actually watered during this song. Because Jacklin put herself so completely into expressing this feeling when she performed “Don’t Let The Kids Win,” I was able to go there with her.

Jacklin came across as so personable that her show felt somewhat like an intimate heart-to-heart between the two of us, as though she really were just a cool, older girl living in a house down the street from me. During this “heart-to-heart,” I became more aware that as time passes, I might start to feel like the deadlines by which I need to achieve my dreams are speeding past without me. However, the sole presence of Julia Jacklin in front of me Wednesday night, surprising even herself as she sang on her first North American tour, was proof that we can be wrong about the expiration dates we place on our life endeavors.

As I left Jacklin’s show, I wondered if she ever located the girl that she sang about needing to find in “Coming of Age”—the artist whose music would inspire Jacklin to the point where her toes curled. Though after watching her perform Wednesday night, I would say that in the process of looking for this someone, Jacklin just might have found herself.

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