Jake Bugg lives up to the hype at TRAF

Written by Scott Mervis on .


Buggphoto by Steve KalinskyJake Bugg has a funny name and kind of a funny voice to go with it.

Having wracked my brain to think of who he reminds me of, I came up with Jimmie Dale Gilmore, with that distinctive squawking style.

Bugg, whose real last name is Kennedy, probably never even heard of Gilmore, but you sure can tell he’s heard Bob Dylan, Billy Bragg and Johnny Cash.

Bugg closed the Three Rivers Arts Festival Sunday, quite brilliantly, playing for what seemed like four sets of people: screaming girls up front who worshipped his every move, young fans who knew the song “Lightning Bolt” from some streaming service, older fans who heard this “new Dylan”-type buzz and, of course, people there because it was free.

The 20-year-old Brit managed to rock them all, rumbling through acoustic rockabilly (“There’s a Beast and We Feed It All”), country-folk balladry (“Me and You”), retro-psych (“Green Man”), ZZ Top-like blues-rock (“Kingpin”) and Stooges punk (“What Doesn’t Kill You”).

Backed by bass and drums, and fresh from Bonnaroo two days before, he did it all with a command well beyond his years and when you thought you’d seen all his tricks, he unleashed scorching electric guitar solos — nothing too fancy but highly effective.

An extra treat was a howling cover of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)” filled the passion of someone who doesn’t look like he’s going to fade away anytime soon.


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