JR JR at Rough Trade NYC

JR JR, formerly known as Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., played a brief acoustic set on Monday night at Rough Trade. The famed record shop is nestled in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and features a concert venue in the back, where Daniel Zott and Joshua Epstein set up shop. Free of an actual drum kit or a glowing backdrop in their namesake, they worked through an array of gentle, lilting songs, their harmonized voices carrying most of the music. The considerably small room wasn’t even halfway full, which Epstein took note of, saying, “I could actually afford to give every single person here $100”. Half of the set consisted of their back-and-forth banter, or otherwise inviting the audience to the signing that would take place immediately after they finished playing. “Time makes grownups out of kids,” they cooed, a line that felt especially poignant when considering the fact that the entire performance lasted all of thirty minutes. Their minimalist sound that night was comforting, an easy retreat from the cold weather outside and an invitation into something strikingly tender.

JR JR is best known for more amped-up, glow stick-worthy concerts (“If You Didn’t See Me [Then You Weren’t On the Dancefloor]” comes to mind), which obviously doesn’t translate when it comes time to play a 250-capacity venue for free. This still managed to work to the duo’s advantage, however, showing fans a different side of their music and giving them a newfound appreciation for Zott and Epstein’s raw talent. It’s not often that you can take away the synth boards and drum pads from an electronic outfit and still be left with something special. JR JR transcends genre, and any preconceptions you had about them would be shattered if you walked into the show at Rough Trade. Their set was casual, intimate, and warm; it felt more like seeing them perform in their own living room than in an actual public space. As their voices crackled into the microphones, the beauty of the moment wasn’t lost on anyone in the room – their mouths silent, their eyes transfixed.