Krule World: Archy Marshall & band unleash jazz punk melancholy over Théâtre Beanfield

by Stephan Boissonneault

The air outside is humid and wet, and the sun is just coming into view after a 20-minute rainstorm an hour before. It’s uncomfortable and a little off-putting as we crush a few park beers, two joints, and for a few, a handful of mushrooms—perfect for the King Krule show. We all packed into the doors of Théâtre Corona, sorry the now Théâtre Beanfield, which seems to have changed in name alone as the decor is the same and the bright “Corona” sign is still hanging from the building’s outdoor walls. 

The opener is Jerkcurb, a one-man melancholic loop indie machine led by South London’s, Jacob Read. He approaches the stage in a retro-paneled bowling shirt and leads the crowd through a rather slow, droney guitar, but atmospheric soundtrack about the weirdness of life. It’s a bit Americana at times but in a dreary underwater haze. His vocals could be louder, but Read has many different singing voices that can ensnare you and transport you to his little universe; a seedy strip mall where loners escape existence, or following a bonafide rockstar, depressed as all hell. 

Jerkcurb started the melancholic vibe at the King Krule show

Jerkcurb could do well with a live drummer, but he definitely gives me the courage to find his album, Air Con Eden, which is suited better alone, over headphones on a rainy night. It seems like Jerkcurb and King Krule were schoolmates and neighbours in a past life and Read deeply inspired King Krule, real name, Archy Marshall, who says “We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Jerkcurb,” during his set. 

As King Krule, and his five-piece band, who requested no photographers in the middle of the pit because “King Krule [didn’t] want to see cameras,”—a security guard has no problem telling us—take the stage, saxophonist/vocalist, Ignacio Salvadores, lights some incense and revels in a drag of a clove cigarette. The lights are dark for most of the opener “Perfecto Miserable,” anyways, and there are only brief moments when we see flashes of Archy’s face. Next is another track from 2020’s Man Alive!, “Alone. Omen 3,” a jazzy, dark, sometimes discordant song about losing one’s identity. 

After a song from The Ooz, the lights finally light the stage and we all see its backdrop. The nightmarish trees and cube land, the abstract cover of King Krule’s latest, Space Heavy. He bursts into the album opener “Flimsier,” a song full of existential dread and doubt, and enough watery chords to give you whiplash. 

King Krule swoons

But Archy makes it all look so easy, giving a slight one tooth grilled-smile to the crowd before mumbling something droll into the microphone with his deep voice, and then repeatedly smacking his head like an unkempt caveman, to rile up the crowd. He’s unbelievably cool, without falling into the general definitions of the word.

The first half of the King Krule set is more of a gloomy lullaby, but right as the thick, punk-tinged bass kicked in for “Stoned Again,” the floor loses their collective shit—shuffling from side to side like manic crustaceans and moshing for the song’s outro, which sees Archy violently swing his guitar in a haze and drop it on the stage floor, grappling and screaming into the mic. 

People may call King Krule’s vocal style low, scratchy, and baritone, but songs like “Stoned Again,” convey just how much control he has over it, flipping from a post-punk ramble to a hushed growl. He could easily lead a punk band in the vein of someone like Fontaines D.C.. Yet he creates new gritty songs like “Hamburgerphobia,” a devastating song about eating a hamburger in the park and dissociating, which on the Space Heavy sounds like a dark hallucination, and live is pure unharnessed punk rock madness. 

The pit opens up again during the build of “Easy Easy,” as the floor waits for the exact moment to crash into each other like thick bone-headed dinosaurs looking for mayhem. It’s a sweaty affair and continues with another jazzy deep-cut banger like “Rock Bottom,” which in the official music video, Archy dedicates to a “Mr. Read.” It sounds like Jacob Read, i.e. opener Jerkcurb, had a profound effect on King Krule’s upbringing and really pulled him out of the dirt as a young man. We don’t really get the true meanings of songs from mysterious songwriters often, but on this Montreal night, the dots are connected. 

Post-punk bliss during “Easy Easy”

King Krule’s set is 20 or so songs long, full of a few deeper cuts and of course the hits; the perfect setlist for any diehard or new fan of his Krulian jazz-rock, post-punk psychosis. The encore is “Out Getting Ribs,” a song that contributed to his newfound fame in 2013, when he was just a fresh-faced 17-year-old boy, with praise from the likes of Beyonce… 

King Krule is no longer a secret phenomenon like 10 years ago. He’s now a household name, who could easily headline the big festivals, but still chooses to grind out on the city circuit, perhaps due to anxiety, disbelief, or even care. Either way, we’re lucky to have him during this weird era of human life.

Photos by Stephan Boissonneault

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