The two-man band comprised of Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott, accompanied by a touring drummer, trotted to the stage in NASCAR firesuits. They then stripped down to reveal vintage three-piece suits, shook hands and were ready to get down. With this opening scene and the band name—taken after the NASCAR driver of No. 88 AMP Energy/United States National Guard Chevrolet Impala—one might think they are all gimmick.
Well, there is that, but the music stands up for itself. The Detroit-based indie rock duo backs it up with infectious dance grooves, tight rock rhythms and a psychedelic wall of sound. Think of the post-punk experimental sounds of Bear Hands meeting the dance anthems of Starfucker.
They are touring in support of their fresh full-length It’s a Corporate World (released June 7) and pulled tracks from it, including stand-out “Skeletons,” where they invited three reluctant audience members to wear one panda and two skeleton masks while singing backup. OK, then there were strobe lights, two flashing sets of a “J” and “R” and a bubble machine that sent orbs flying through the crowd intermittently. But, really, they’re not gimmicky. I’d say they are detail-oriented and prepping their stage presence for the successes to come.
Between songs, Epstein and Zott bantered back and forth as if the set doubled as a stand-up showcase. They riffed on the solo musician who had played at their dinner spot. And then they offered their instruments up to anyone who wanted to play an original song, which seemed sincere; however, for better or worse, there were no takers.
The new album comes approximately one year after the band’s first EP Horse Power. Jr. Jr. played “Nothing But Our Love” and “Vocal Chords” from that release, playfully taking turns on the vocals and switching up instruments on occasion. They joked about how not playing covers was part of their contract, but managed to sneak in Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.”
To top the set off came what they called the Big Love Encore, aptly changed from the regular Love Encore because they were playing in Utah: A near-perfect version of Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love,” which finally sent the crowd into the dance frenzy the band deserved.