Jesse Jo Stark at The Wardrobe – Reviewed by Gary Hocking

Tuesday evening saw Los Angeles based alt-rocker Jesse Jo Stark perform with a full backing band at The Wardrobe in Leeds, in support of her latest single, Mystery.

Also playing was Miya Folick and Sunflower Bean.  With a queue extending out of the stairs into the venue and across the bar upstairs a good hour before the doors were due to open, it was clear that there was great anticipation and excitement for the night’s proceedings. Hosted by the fantastic Futuresound Events, it was great to see their shows continuing to attract a reputable following and generating a buzz around the well-deserving acts coming through the City.

Photograph by Rose McLaughlin.

Opening the set with Wish I Was Dead proved to be a wise choice and had the crowd instantly hooked, with its heavy bass and groovy rhythms. Jesse Jo dominated the stage with her powerful, commanding vocals and intriguing presence. From the very start the various influences in her music shone through wonderfully; everything from rockabilly through to summery blues and even soul was present, embellished by a harder, more distorted rock sound.

Photograph by Mark Wheelwright.

Dandelion, from the EP of the same name, was an early highlight of the set, with its shoegaze-esque riffs reminiscent of early Slowdive used to create a sombre yet uplifting atmosphere. The instrumental genius of this song was the perfect backdrop for the vocals to cut through with an impressive intensity.

The new single Mystery continued in a similar vein, conjuring up a great sense of warmth and nostalgia and the introspective outpouring from Jesse Jo throughout the song was met with tremendous applause.

Photograph by Rose McLaughlin.


Breakfast With Lou, also from the Dandelion EP, offered a more classic 50s/60s sound and highlighted yet another dimension to the multifaceted talents of the band. Slick and sophisticated, Jesse Jo effortlessly brought the influences of treasured greats into a new and inspiring, more contemporary context. By this point the room was near full, resulting in Jesse Jo thanking the audience for the great reception.

A tremendous cover of the Kim Carnes classic Bette Davis Eyes was a welcomed surprise towards the end of the set, very much staying true to the feel of the original but accentuating it in all the right ways. A somewhat raspy side to her vocals could be heard at times and the monstrous guitar tone gave the well-known pop tune a refreshing, more memorable edge.

Photograph by Mark Wheelwright.

Fire Of Love closed the set in a tremendous climactic fashion, with its memorable vocal hooks and thunderous beat perfectly demonstrating the band’s ability to create rousing rock anthems with a unique, seductive twist. A top class act that I look forward to seeing again soon.

The new single Mystery is available on Spotify and the tour continues on the following dates:

November 25th – The Bullingdon, Oxford
November 26th – The Art School, Glasgow
November 27th – Academy 2, Manchester
November 28th – Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth
November 29th – SWX – Bristol
November 30th – Junction, Cambridge
December 1st     – The Castle & Falcon, Birmingham
December 3rd    – The Shacklewell Arms, London




Feature photograph by Mark Wheelwright


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