The Jelly Jam + Rustik @ The Rockpile, Toronto – 18 August 2017

A progressive rock/metal supergroup strikes Toronto! The members of The Jelly Jam include bassist John Myung from Dream Theater, guitarist and vocalist Ty Tabor from King’s X and drummer Rod Morgenstein, an alumni of Dixie Dreggs and Winger. Despite their line-up’s impressive roster of musical contributions, this band has a criminally limited fan base. Their music is a great distance from what one may expect from their main bands and last year’s ‘Profit‘ full-length was a refreshing listen. This marks their maiden venture to Canada, with only a few other live spectacles ever taking place.

Support is from Toronto’s own Rustik who wield a contemporary and metallic hard rock weapon. Following a ten year hiatus, these hard rockers returned to the music scene last year. The guitar sound is muscular and features a wealth of groove to nod along to. Despite an enthused performance from the support act, the audience remain glued to their tables or hovering towards the back by the bar. Further signs of life are elicited from the punters with abridged covers of Megadeth’s ‘Symphony of Destruction’ and Billy Idol’s ‘White Wedding’, easily the highlights of the show. Unfortunately for Rustik, their songs sound too similar and excepting the covers, the show yields no surprises. The heavy self-promotion throughout the set that they indulge in will not secure them legions of new fans; instead they should concentrate on creative songwriting.

Following an instrumental introduction, namely ‘Nature’ from their eponymous debut, The Jelly Jam start to a voluminous tide of hails despite the venue being at less than half capacity. This segues effortlessly into the album’s opener ‘I Can’t Help You’, striking the audience with a grungy alternative prog concoction. Myung’s thumping bass presents the rock ‘n’ roll swagger of ‘Memphis’ from 2016’s ‘Profit‘. The venue’s sound is complimentary to the trio, amplifying Ty Tabor’s gritty guitar tone and Rod Morgenstein’s explosive drumming.

On the surface, it may seem that The Jelly Jam follow the script but there is a delicious dose of variation and influence seeping through their efforts that are not the straight-up prog that one might expect. ‘Empty’ fuses the psychedelic into moody distorted rock. ‘Alison’ contains red-eyed, bitter progressive metal exuberance in its riffing, also bearing an unhinged guitar solo. A thoughtful and slightly neurotic grunge haze is packaged into ‘No Remedy’. ‘Halos in Hell’ rides an introspective and alternative Porcupine Tree-style train of thought.

This is the second tour for ‘Profit‘ and may explain why the self-titled debut sees more songs receiving an airing tonight. These oldest tracks are more technical than the later fare, albeit far from wandering into the complexities of the average prog metal band. Each of the musicians are tremendously dexterous, their talents evident even in the less complex set selections. The only possible point of contention is that Tabor’s vocals fail to grasp the strength of their recorded versions on occasion, otherwise the performance can be considered flawless. ‘Nature’s Girl’ showcases restlessness and a heavy ’90s alternative influence, seemingly closing the set.

The abrupt end to the show suggests that there is more to come and surely enough, the trio reclaim the stage. The opener of ‘Profit‘, ‘Care’, encourages some of the fans to sing along to the chorus before being chased down by ‘Who’s Coming Now’ from ‘Shall We Descend’. The band thanks the venue and, like King’s X, ask the crowd to wait a while to meet the band, take photos and sign autographs. This is an excellent conclusion to those dedicated fans who bothered to head out tonight to such a rare show live in Toronto.