Jack Off Jill reunites for one show in Asheville

GROUP DYNAMICS: “Jack Off Jill does not write Metallica songs,” says lead singer Jessicka Addams, second from left, of revisiting the band's back catalog. Four members based in three different cities will regroup for a special one-weekend reunion. Photo by Remy Holwick

When planning a heist, it typically helps to have someone planted on the inside of the establishment about to be looted. That same logic holds true when organizing a long-in-the-works reunion concert in Asheville — the formula led to such smooth results for the members of Jack Off Jill that they can hardly believe their luck.

The inside woman is Tenni “AhCha Cha” Arslanyan, the original drummer for the influential South Florida riot-Goth band. She lives in Asheville and works at Hi-Wire Brewing and The Odditorium. Thanks to these connections, both businesses will play big roles in a destination three-day weekend full of rare events (see sidebar), which culminates in a show on Saturday, July 18, at The Orange Peel, where Arslanyan is also on the payroll.

In addition to the serendipitous venue cooperation, fans will be able to enjoy pints of Strawberry Gashes Hefeweizen, a commemorative beer named for the Jack Off Jill song that Hi-Wire is brewing in the band’s honor. And — compared to other potential host sites — Asheville is an affordable and accessible city. Between Airbnb offerings and a list of hotels that Arslanyan gave lead singer Jessicka Addams to share on the band’s Facebook page, none of the travelers coming from across the country and London have had issues finding lodging.

“It wouldn’t have gone down like that in New York or L.A.,” Addams says. “Asheville has been very accommodating. It’s a smart city, and dealing with locals has been a pleasure.”

For the first time in 18 years, Addams and Arslanyan will be joined onstage by original Jack Off Jill member Michelle “Inhell” Oliver (guitar), who was part of the band’s last iteration before it signed with Risk Records. Also part of the reunion lineup is bassist Helen Storer (Fluffy; Thee Heavenly Music Association), who was part of its final touring configuration.

Like Arslanyan, Oliver didn’t continue with Addams on the group’s post-1997 musical adventures, though she did return in 1999 to help write final album Clear Hearts, Grey Flowers before leaving for personal reasons. The old friends later reconnected over social media while finding careers outside the music industry. Storer works in the Los Angeles spa industry as a facility director, Oliver lives in Denmark where she runs a theater company with her wife, and Addams is also in L.A., employed as a fine artist by a gallery.

Spurred by an awareness that all of the female bands they love had reunited, the idea of a one-show Jack Off Jill reunion had been in the works for the past three years. The epiphany to have it in Asheville occurred in 2014, when Arslanyan discovered that the daughter of the owner of the Haywood Quick Stop in West Asheville had set up a Jack Off Jill shrine in the convenience store. Shortly thereafter, the date of July 18 — the 15th anniversary of the release of Clear Hearts, Grey Flowers — became available at The Orange Peel. All four musicians happened to have free time in their schedules, and the rest of the weekend came into place in a similarly easy manner.

All that remained was the small matter of the music, and in February, Arslanyan flew out to Los Angeles for a set of rehearsals to ensure that the former bandmates still had chemistry. To their great delight the connection was instant, though the process of revisiting the old material has been somewhat of a shock.

“Jack Off Jill does not write Metallica songs,” Addams says. “I’m horrified by some of the lyrics that I have to sing, but I will sing them — though I’m a little mad at my 19-year-old self.”

Addams also notes that a lot of the band’s songs have a sad feel, but that plenty of laughter and light moments have kept the proceedings funny and fun. At one point on a break from rehearsals in L.A., this commitment to good times included the singer donning a skeleton dress and doing a photo shoot with a witch piñata, a night during which she confesses “things got weird.”

Look for this positivity to translate to the stage as Jack Off Jill plays hits and oddball rarities that span its catalog. These selections include songs from Clear Hearts, Grey Flowers, material that Arslanyan didn’t have a hand in writing, but that Addams says the drummer has been highly accommodating in learning.

The downside of all this goodness is its rare, limited nature — but even there, the band has its fans covered. For those who can’t make it to Asheville for the big weekend, the show will be filmed and eventually distributed, a gift to listeners who’ve had Jack Off Jill’s back all these years.

WHO: Jack Off Jill plus JD Samson and Kitten Forever
WHERE: The Orange Peel, theorangepeel.net
WHEN: Saturday, July 18, at 9 p.m. Sold out at press time

 

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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for ashevillemovies.com and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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