Photography: Stuart Moulding / @oohshootstu

Jarv Is...

Evol @ Invisible Wind Factory 5/11/21

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Some artists are almost mythical in their existence. Having carved out their own legacy through inventive projects, a keen eye and understanding of the issues affecting the masses, and a determined work ethic fused with sheer talent, the status of cultural icon is thrust upon them. Undoubtedly, Jarvis Cocker is one of these people. After fronting one of the best pop bands to come out of Britain, there’s high expectations for everything he does. His newest project, JARV IS…, exceeds all of them.

The apprehensive synthesizer of Pulp’s She’s A Lady begins our descent into the fairy tale world of Jarv Is…. Their music is mostly whispered spoken word over spooky and hypnotic art dance sounds, so this slots snugly into their set. Invisible Wind Factory is an apt choice of venue, too; the disused factory-turned-weird-wonderland seems like it should exist in a similar, but seedier, more surreal world.

Dressed like a Wes Anderson character in a brown velvet suit, Cocker saunters out to a screaming crowd. He places one foot on a monitor and pauses – before lowering a sprig of red grapes into his mouth. As the song accelerates, he scans the room. He launches the remaining grapes into the crowd and flings himself full force into song. This defines the rest of the evening we’re about to experience.

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Performing their debut album almost in its entirety, as well as a couple of solo singles from Cocker’s back catalogue, there’s not one lull in the excitement and energy the band provides. Whether he’s holding up an old mirror to the crowd or throwing tiny chocolates at us, Cocker remains animated, lively and tireless. His body jerks and stutters along to the music, uncurling his long limbs like a magician revealing a trick, and moving his legs like a walker on stilts. He cuts a celestial figure: lanky, ethereal, camp.

Sonically, Jarv Is… are robust. Each musician is rigorous in their focus, creating graceful and often cinematic tracks that oscillate in tune to the crowd’s participation. Cocker describes songs as a “way of communicating with one another”, and in the case of Jarv Is…, it’s certainly true – the performance feels interactive and communal. There’s a consistent back-and-forth between performer and fan – when his 2006 single Running The World inspires an impassioned ‘Maggie’s in the mud’ chant, the band improvises an instrumental accompaniment, much to everyone’s amusement.

Between tracks, Cocker is delightful and effortlessly charismatic. He relays facts he’s scrawled on a piece of A4, including an old Liverpool festival line-up Pulp played with a band called Eat My Dog. He answers most heckles with a coy smile and a dry response, including when fans request old Pulp songs, to which he feigns confusion: “You’ve got the wrong group!”

Cocker is an innate performer, and Jarv Is… is one of his most interesting projects to date. It’s unique and brilliantly weird; completely unparalleled by anything else. Musically compelling and fascinating to experience first-hand, Jarv Is… put on a show you’d like to go on forever.

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