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No matter what their band’s name is, JR JR are still a well-oiled, indie-pop machine

JR JRBy Zach Bourque //

JR JR //
The Echo – Los Angeles
May 25th, 2017 //

The band that at one time went by the name of a retiring NASCAR driver headlined The Echo for an intimate performance in LA last Thursday. Although its genre can be hard to pin down as it floats somewhere between electronic, indie and pop, it’s difficult to dispute JR JR’s shear power of infectious charm, which was on full display inside the packed Echo Park venue.

Formerly known as Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr., Daniel Zott and Joshua Epstein made a name for themselves back in 2011 with their debut full length It’s a Corporate World on Warner Bros. Records. Their fresh sound drew attention from the indie scene and LA public radio station KCRW but never seemed to find the mainstream audience that their music deserved. When it was announced back in 2015 that they had downsized (besides the capital letters) their name to JR JR, a move that coincided with the release of their third album, the Detroit duo managed to crack the charts and gain some radio play on stations like KROQ with its single “Gone”.

The crowd inside The Echo, which was packed to nauseating claustrophobia, was a wonderful melting pot that represented the band’s broad appeal. Hipsters brushed elbows with industry executives as they attempted to make their way to the bar. Closer to the stage, 20-somethings danced and sang along to “Gone” as did a few old-timers who we imagine might have been related to some of the band members.

JR JR

Zott and Epstein are both wonderfully eccentric figures onstage, as Zott’s side ponytail afro jives perfectly with Epstein’s auto-tuned vocals that are performed via a telephone receiver. Plus, the two have no shortage of charming banter in between songs, and you can tell they have been playing music together for quite some time.

While the short set was used to essentially “focus group” new material from their upcoming album, JR JR were able to sneak in a few oldies like “If You Didn’t See Me (Then You Weren’t on the Dancefloor)”. The group also donated a portion of each ticket to a non-profit named JED, which helps bring light to the emotional health of teens and young adults. Epstein had several stories regarding his own struggles with anxiety and depression, but none of them that we heard ever shifted the tone off too far away from the group’s ubiquitous positivity.

It’s hard to imagine JR JR’s momentum letting up anytime soon. It’s been a slow crawl for the group, but it appears that the word is finally out and we anticipate big things from their next LP. And to think that all along, the biggest detriment to the group’s success might have come from Dale Earnhardt himself. Long live JR JR.

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