On 'PICA,' Tampa’s Jordan Esker & the Hundred Percent leans on piano, stacks of synths and boom bap

The band celebrates the new album with a concert on June 11 at New World Brewery.

click to enlarge Jordan Esker & the Hundred Percent, which plays New World Brewery in Tampa, Florida on June 11, 2021. - KELSEY WALKER
Kelsey Walker
Jordan Esker & the Hundred Percent, which plays New World Brewery in Tampa, Florida on June 11, 2021.


Jordan Esker & The Hundred Percent’s latest project has been a long time coming.

Last year, the four-piece released two singles off its upcoming PICA album—“Bored Again,” with a jumpy bassline and falsetto hook, and “Rust,” which covers what it’s like to totally lose yourself by getting stuck living in a virtual reality. Esker also admitted in a press release that there are elements that give off Prince and Ray Charles vibes—a strange combo for sure, but both tunes bookend the track listing of the new record.

Jordan Esker & the Hundred Percent w/House Of I
Friday, June 11, 8:30 p.m.
New World Brewery (music hall)
810 Skagway Ave., Tampa
Tables of four, five or six available for $40-$60
newworldtampa.com

Right now, a total of seven songs, out of 11 on PICA, have surfaced on streaming services, all on different EP releases. Esker, who recently produced House Of I’s Daniel Caballero’s new side project, Blonde Gentleman, really went out of his way to make sure that this release sounds unlike anything he’s done in his professional career. For example, he’s taken an interest in the sound of a gospel choir. “My days in the FSU gospel choir taught me the power of gospel singing's rhythm and harmony,” he told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.

There’s not an actual, massive gospel choir that appears, nor is there even much sign of gospel inspiration throughout the album. It’s definitely there, though—the choir’s presence is far superior on “Never Gave Back,” which sees Esker lament about no longer knowing quite how to pay somebody back, but it shines brightest during the last few seconds of “All The Wondering.”

Hundred Percent keyboardist Matt Raspo worked his magic on a recently-acquired vintage 1977 Wurlitzer 200A keyboard that Esker heavily relied on for practically every song on the album, hoping to cut most of the regular guitar work out of the picture. “While some guitar still got in, the album largely leans on melodic piano lines, stacks and stacks of vintage synths, boom bap leaning alt-rock drums, and of course, the mystic sounds of the Wurli soaked in strange reverbs,” Esker wrote in a press release. He’s not kidding either—the most triumphant guitar work on the album is thrown into the last 40-or-so seconds of “Never Gave Back.” 

To make this release even more of something to look forward to, Jordan Esker & The Hundred Percent plays a socially-distanced release party at Tampa’s New World Brewery on June 11—PICA’s release day. Naturally, House Of I will be opening the show, and every song from the album, and then some, will be performed. Oh, and a celebration of Esker’s 30th birthday will be in place.

And don't worry about asking Esker what PICA stands for.

"I got the idea from the idea from the condition where people or animals consume inedible substances. To me this has always stuck in my mind as I’m super conscious about how the food I eat affects me. However, obviously the songs aren't about that, rather the album largely centers around my relationship with music and how I’ve grown to view it over time," he said. "Take that metaphor as you will.”

In the meantime, go get yourself pumped by giving one of the band’s new EPs a listen, or one of its less-recent releases, 2018’s Fail To Learn, or 2014’s Best Supporting Actor.

New developments at New World

Esker’s show marks a significant period of change at New World Brewery, too, as it’s the last show the venue is doing with its limited-to-90-people, seated-and-socially-distanced format.

In an email to CL, New World talent buyer Mark Warren said that the seating for Esker’s show works out to $10/head as far as a cover charge. The tables—$40 for a four-top, $50 for a five-top and $60 for a six-top—essentially allowed folks to keep their COVID pods intact, but new CDC guidelines have led to relaxed guidelines at the venue.

The news is welcome for longtime fans of the venue, which closed its location in Ybor City, which it called home for 22 years, back in 2017. By the time that rain-soaked closing night arrived, regulars knew the venue was moving to its new home in Sulphur Springs, but no one knew they’d have to wait until February 2020 for the new spot to open. And nobody could predict that COVID-19 was on the way to shut it all down in a major way. New World pivoted, quickly adapting into a place for pizza and cocktail pickup, before eventually opening back up to people and limited-capacity, socially-distanced shows with strict enforcement of mask rules that bellied the lax approach of many other venues and businesses in Tampa (New World was one of a small handful of venues that helped launch a local “Safe & Sound” protocol).

And things are getting even closer to normal at New World by the summer.

“The plan is then to move to half capacity (150) and general admission (mostly standing with first-come booth seating along the walls) for a few weeks so we can adjust our procedures and practices accordingly,” Warren added. “Then if everybody behaves and things stay cool (like, no infection/death spikes), we move to full capacity (299) at the beginning of July.”

UPDATED 06/07/21 2:25 p.m. Updated with info on upcoming attendance changes at New World Brewery.

See a list of Tampa “Safe & Sound” live music venues here.

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