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Jump Little Children

Band Rocks Paradise with Varied Setlist

By Christine Fry

Staff Writer

Jump Little Children

Paradise Rock Club

Thursday, November 1, 2001

Jump Little Children will be amazing,” the lead singer for Dragstrip Courage, the second of two opening acts, told the crowd packed into the Paradise Thursday night. But amazing does not even begin to describe the band’s two-hour performance.

Jump Little Children’s set consisted of a broad spectrum of material running from the early “Licorice Tea Demos” to their most recent release, Vertigo. The songs represented Jump’s eclectic musical style, influenced by, among other things, their classical training and their travels in Ireland. Their melodies ran the gamut from the “echoing vistas” of Cathedrals to the playful squalor of “You Can Look.”

Jump began the night with the lofty “Vertigo.” The song’s unexpected transitions rapidly whisked both the band and the crowd from a mellow mood to an energetic state. Probably the most visibly energized member of the band throughout the night was upright bassist Jonathan Gray. If he wasn’t playing the bass like a head-banging hard rocker, he was jumping and swinging around his bass with a huge grin on his face.

Matt Bivins is the most versatile of all of the members of the band. Not only does he sing lead or back-up vocals for most of the songs, but he also plays the accordion, guitar, flute, harmonica, tin whistle, and keyboard. He is probably the only musician who can play the accordion and a little pink guitar and not look kitschy. The songs for which he sings lead are generally the band’s most sexually charged songs. One such song, “Habit,” is comprised of a series of four vignettes about satiation fused together by the chorus, “I could make a habit out of you.” The album version’s moody coffeehouse style was interrupted briefly by a more upbeat rock-sounding interlude between the second and third vignettes. Although the two styles are very different, the mixture was quite appropriate.

“Words of Wisdom” was written by drummer Evan Bivins as a tribute to his father, who recently passed away. As lead singer Jay Clifford sang the poignant words about teaching others the wisdom of the Bivins’ father, Bivins could be seen wiping away a tear as he played the accordion. Most of the songs on the Vertigo album are like this one in that they were written about very personal moments in the band members’ lives. The Vertigo songs sharply contrasted with the more light-hearted tunes of the Magazine album. This change reflects the group’s maturation.

The most impressive aspect of the evening was the encore performance. Once the band returned to stage in response to the crowd’s pleading screams, they requested that the audience stay quiet as they unplugged their instruments, pushed away their microphones and performed an acoustic version of “Where She Lies.”

The crowd was awestruck as Clifford’s soothing voice filled the Paradise. Then the band quickly plugged back in their instruments and dove into the lively song by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee from which they derived the name of the band. This song was interrupted with a showcasing of the individual talents of each member of the band, beginning with a drum solo by Evan Bivins. Following Bivins was cellist Ward Williams, who displayed his classical training in a wonderful improvisation. Bassist Gray sang a snippet of what sounded like a country-western song. Bivins’ accordion solo segued into the Van Halen song “Jump.” Finally, Clifford mesmerized the audience again with a solo rendition of “Close Your Eyes.”

Jump Little Children’s devotion to their fans, in addition to their continuous musical innovation, is why they have developed such a loyal fan base. Before every concert, the band members can be found in the crowd enjoying the opening acts. And after every show, they go outside to sign autographs and chat with fans like old friends. With the group’s notable energy and their eclectic set list, it is impossible that anyone left the Paradise Thursday night unsatisfied.