New Yorkers are accustomed to a steady stream of sourpuss bands playing in local clubs, dressed in black, avoiding eye contact with the audience, singing depressing songs about dark things, or screaming shrilly and playing as ear-splittingly loud as power tools to mask the fact that they really have nothing to say.
So when a sweet-tempered performer like Jeremy Loops walks on stage, quietly blowing a bright and cheerful tune on a harmonica, strumming his guitar, and skipping along the stage like a schoolboy on holiday, the first reaction of seasoned New Yorkers is–why is this guy so goddamned happy?
Before I had hopped aboard the G train to Williamsburg, I had done no research, had not listened to any song previews, had not checked out any You Tube videos. So I was completely in the dark about what to expect at the show on June 26.
But this was not the case for the capacity crowd at Brooklyn Bowl (so-named because half the space is a working bowling alley). They knew the songs of Jeremy Loops well enough to sing along on the lyrics. In fact, many of the people around me at the lip of the stage said they had been following him on tour, town to town, club to club.
Most of the fans were young ladies, who kept reaching their arms forward and crying out longingly, “Jer-e-meee!” but there were guys too. Many said they actually hailed from South Africa, having gone to school in the States, and they had travelled to Brooklyn from other places on the Eastern seaboard to hear their fellow countryman perform on his last night of an American tour before flying back to the homeland the next morning.
Back home in Cape Town, Loops’s reputation is based solidly on his live shows. His recorded output is very slight—an EP that was later expanded into a full-length LP, Trading Change, about a year ago. But so far, that’s it.
Loops is a stage name based on the loop pedal he uses to build layers of music all by himself, a style he developed while working several years on yachts in the Mediterranean. Alone at sea with no other musicians, he used his guitar and loop pedal to make himself something of a one-man band. Of course, nowadays he regularly performs with a small group of musicians, forming a loosely knit group—Motheo Moleko, who brings a happy rap presence to the stage, and saxophonist Jamie Faull. They were also joined in performance at Brooklyn Bowl by Mr Sakitumi on electric bass and drums.
Loops is just a happy guy, even when he is singing stinging songs about an adulterous girlfriend, as in “Sinner”:
That’s why the audience loves him. He doesn’t just stand on stage and perform, then pack it up and go home. He doesn’t manipulate the crowd according to a script, like so many acts that instruct the crowd to clap their hands–basically ordering them to have fun, rather than playing music the crowd just can’t help themselves clapping along to. Instead, Loops draws them in as a part of the performance in a very real way, his infectious friendliness dropping the guard of even the most hesitant, as if they were at a backyard get-together. No wonder he was voted “Best Live Act” by a TV station in his native land.
It is basically folk music he performs, if one has to give it one name. And he clearly could earn a good dollar just playing guitar and singing, in classic folkie style. But over the course of a show you’ll also hear rap, jazz, rock, and world music too.
Most of all, if you didn’t walk in with a smile on your face, you’ll certainly leave with one!