By Matthew Williams
Nottingham-based singer-songwriter Jake Bugg has had a fast to prominence rise in the past decade, becoming one of the most distinctive voices of recent times. While many Indie artists are raised on a diet of Oasis, The Jam and the Smiths, Bugg’s style is rooted in the pre-Beatles rock’n’roll and folk of Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and Buddy Holly, combining their stripped back sound and song writing with contemporary rock riffs and modern production. After his legendary Glastonbury performance in 2011 and his highly successful debut album in 2012, Bugg would gain the attention of legendary producer Rick Rubin, famous for his work with the likes of Run DMC, Slayer, Metallica, Black Sabbath, Kanye West and many more. The two would record Shangri La in 2013, which allowed Bugg to break from his working-class roots into America. After three years of rigorously touring, Bugg returned with another two albums in 2016 and 2017, further maturing and developing his sound.
Upon his return to his homeland, Bugg recently released new music, unexpectedly collaborating with British DJ CamelPhat on new single “Be Someone”, a track that sees the acoustic indie/folk rocker dip his toes into the dance and electronic pools, surprisingly pulling it off.
Two nights after his triumphant hometown return to Nottingham’s Rock City, Bugg stopped at the 02 Academy for an earnest set. He took to the stage playing the classic “Trouble Time”, as well as “The Ballad of Mr. Jones”, which was the highlight of the night for me, as the formerly acoustic track was electrified live, giving it so much more grandeur and gravitas. The additional distortion gave the track a swaggering stoner-rock vibe, ascending to a euphoric guitar solo and his soaring vocals.
Bugg, the man who has seamlessly looked 18 for about 10 years now, was backed by a killer band, most distinctively a set of Hammond keys which gave each song an ethereal overtone, filling out Bugg’s lonesome guitar boogie. Bugg would alternate between playing with the band and going solo with nothing but his voice and acoustic guitar. They soon started to weave new tracks such as “Kiss Like the Sun” in with the old classics, surprisingly playing his breakthrough hit “Lightening Bolt” bang in the middle of his set, which caused the crowd to erupt, with half of them on their boyfriend’s shoulders and the other half filming it on snapchat.
I found myself quite surprised by how unique Bugg’s sound was. I always saw him as ‘just another indie singer-songwiriter’, but was pleasantly surprised by his Dylan-esque style, with his howling twang of a voice, unique strumming style and shockingly dextrous guitar solos.
Bugg finished up his set with the classic “Simple Pleasures” and “Two Fingers”, sending the crowd into one last sing-along frenzy. At a mere 25 years old, Bugg already has quite a lot of success under his belt, and with hints of new sounds in his changing style, he has the potential to be huge in years to come.