[REVIEW + PHOTOS] JR JR with Hippo Campus at The Firebird: 10/1/15

Words and Photos by Durrie Bouscaren


“Have you ever seen a guy play a saxophone into a telephone?” someone asked me, bubbles popping around our heads in time to flashing strobe lights. JR JR, formerly known as Dale Earnheart Jr. Jr., visited our fair city last week for an eclectic set at the Firebird.


Apparently they’ve been in touch with Dale Earnhardt Jr., the racecar driver, and he was cool with it, so the change to JR JR was not for legal reasons. But naming conventions aside, these guys rock.


The Detroit-based duo offered fans a heavy dose of indie pop, a dash of electronica, and lyrics that were just darn fun to sing to.


In this amateur music reviewer’s opinion, the standout number was “We Almost Lost Detroit,” an electric ballad that serves as a tribute to the group’s hometown. Credit must be given where it’s due — and that’s to the song’s original creator, Gil Scott-Heron (1977). Paired with a slow, heavy beat, it evokes all the steel, grit and determination of a hard-knock city working to pull itself back up. Honestly, it’s a feeling to which St. Louis can probably relate.


The show has plenty of variety, too — from the dancey number “Gone,” off of their newest album, to more “sexy jams” (their words, not mine) like the single “James Dean.”


JR JR is Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott — their friendly energy and rambunctious creativity makes them seem like a couple of dudes you’d want to get a beer with.

Now excuse me while I round up my mother’s landline phones and try to make music with them.


One of the best parts of seeing younger bands is when they’re still visibly in love with the music they’re playing and just genuinely stoked to be on stage — opener Hippo Campus absolutely fit that bill. According to some reviews posted online, they’re only a couple years out of high school, but the maturity of their sound will remind you that age really doesn’t matter.


Most impressive was guitarist Nathan Stocker’s incredibly intricate riffs, paired with a solid bass line from Zach Sutton. Vocalist/guitarist Jake Luppen was a lovely host, sporting a Bernie Sanders t-shirt and a Minnesota twang. Beats were supplied by Whistler Allen. During one break, Luppen peered through a crowd of teenage fans to point out his grandmother: “I hope you’re enjoying it! Sorry about all the curse words!”


In other words, A+: Would Jam Again.


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