John Jagos, who records and tours as Brothertiger, performs at DC9 on Nov. 30, 2022. (Photo by Casey Vock)
Electronic musicians in many cases assume a role behind the curtain, leaning on their songs to create an aura to draw in and retain listeners and in many cases doing so minus the personality often preceding bands or groups.
Though he’s a low-key human, one who diligently kept working through the pandemic years, it seems John Jagos — along with his music — is himself part of the allure of Brothertiger, the chillwave and synthpop entity he launched as a college student in Ohio, making him an important presence in the space.
And while not all electronic styles lend themselves to engaging on-stage presentation in the same vein as a traditional concert, Brothertiger is by its makings an awesome and riveting sight to behold in its live form. As Jagos demonstrated last week in a stop at DC9, his hands-on and lively approach to concocting sound emphasizes the emotionally rewarding stimulant of each and every song he’s carefully constructed or those he’s thoughtfully covered.
Entertaining an enthusiastic room in DC the night of Nov. 30, Jagos took to the small stage surrounded by a collection of decks and control surfaces and with a pair of moving light fixtures on the floor in front of him that would beam, splash and wash the walls and ceiling in illusory hues for the duration of a mesmerizing set pulled from the Brothertiger catalogue, including the self-titled album that dropped in early November.
Stream the new self-titled Brothertiger album released in early November via Spotify:
Busy and resourceful — he’s produced for others and, during the height of lockdown, was an early adopter of the Bandcamp live-streaming platform — Jagos has indicated in interviews he felt pent up and antsy during the past few years, and so evident it was last Wednesday night that he was fulfilled to be playing out live, no less to folks who’d giddily packed the dark second-floor bar to see him.
Now based in New York City, where he’s spent considerable time searching for the right studio, Jagos was out in support of his newest offering, and at DC9 the audience shouted and cheered for him early in the night as he was all-business other than the occasional earnest smile or a sip of sparkling water.
In between his albums, Jagos has been prolific by way of EPs and singles, including a livestream improv series, in addition to a popular Tears for Fears cover project. At DC9, “Shallow” from his 2019 A Chain of Islands EP began the night on a drift, with heavy, slow slaps that would move the audience into a groove and provide comforting by way of pulsed, seafaring waves and a contemplation spelled out in John’s celestial fumes.
“Cannonball,” from the deeper and darker shift that was 2020’s Paradise Lost, featured more of what might be Brothertiger’s most unique feature: Jagos’ voice diving into vulnerable territory, taking the audience along with him as he would curl over the keys and close his eyes in accentuating his words, a climactic display even behind the swirl of multi-colored lights and stage fog.
Watch the official music video for Brothertiger’s 2022 single, “Tangerine,” via the artist’s official YouTube channel:
Another aquatic dream of sorts, “Dancer on the Water” illuminated fans they threw their arms up and celebrated in a venue that seemed to burst a bit more with each track, clearly an anticipated evening for those who’d come downtown to see Jagos sing and essentially get his steps in, hopping in place as he went, unwavering and buoyant, thriving in the energy of these songs but sharing it equally.
“Wallow,” as it sounds, is designed like many Brothertiger pieces, with Jagos intently seeking to locate and probe various emotions and at DC9 that exploration manifested in epic, stirring ways with distinct textures and dreamy movements that suspended the swaying patrons, before guiding them on to each ensuing passage.
“Sorry, I have a problem controlling my breathe — I’m not a great singer,” he took a deserved sip, but his self-deprecation was off the mark, as even a small child had made his way to the show alongside a parent-fan, and, wearing earphones for safety, the kid took in the whole show from just a few away, staring in total awe of the person responsible for Brothertiger.
“It’s great to be back in DC,” John said, but he admitted his banter skills were limited. “I’m just gonna keep playing the hits.”
Jagos would devote the middle of the set to his new album, and tracks like “Be True” and “New Life” spoke to an artist moving himself into a better position in life to exist — presumably — the way he would prefer. “Be True,” for example, reiterates the lines “finally built the walls around me” and “always be true,” perhaps references to his growing to better appreciate himself and his own creative tendencies, another topic he’s discussed in interviews.
Listen to Fundamentals, Vol. IV, the newest installment in Brothertiger’s ongoing live improv series, via Spotify:
He operated an estimated total of five keyboards at DC9: a Roland deck and what appeared to be a Korg KONTROL 49 on one side, a Roland Juno-60 with a Yamaha keyboard underneath it on the other and positioned in the center was what looked like two small MIDI decks on top of another interface of some sort. Whatever it all might have been, it surrounded John like a fort, and he never stopped using some piece of gear for the duration of this powerful set.
Closing out the set with a pair of songs that originally brought him a great deal of attention, both by way of the acclaimed 2015 album Out of Touch, Jagos brought two of his most vivid compositions to life in “Jungle Floor” and the transformative favorite, “High Tide.”
In the back corner of the smallest venue he could have conceivably played on this tour stop in the nation’s capital, the audience overwhelmed him with applause at the point that would have been his opportunity to exit the stage, catch his breath and consider an encore.
“I can’t really get out of here,” he smiled, feeling the love, and a bit enclosed. “’You put me in the corner.’ … Because you came out all this way in this horrible weather, terrible weather, this one is a cover song … by a favorite band of mine. They’re from England.”
And for those who might have caught wind of Brothertiger by way of John’s 2017 Tears For Fears cover album artfully celebrating Songs From The Big Chair, the night at DC9 was made all the more complete with an emphatic take on “Everybody Wants To Rule The World,” one that saw just about every attendee join in to either dance or sing along.
Clearly putting himself into the music and how its generated, and plainly taking something of benefit from it as well, Jagos has positioned Brothertiger as a lusciously appealing and mending form of electronic music to be enjoyed by a wide range of listeners.
Dancer on the Water
Encore (cornered, really couldn’t leave the stage)
Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Tears for Fears cover)
Here are images of Brothertiger along with the night’s opener, Ari Voxx, performing at DC9 on Nov. 30, 2022. All photos copyright and courtesy of Casey Vock.