Jake Miller, the wet dream of ten million teenage youtuberettes, is all over the place in the US of A. All over the place, Mr Success Story. Spotted at 17 through his plethora of high-scoring shot-at-home singing videos, he did a Bieber and got picked out of the white noise to win a nationwide talent contest, did his first live performance opening for Snoop Dogg, and then proceeded to tour the nation, bestriding stages both big and small while releasing EPs, albums, singles and of course lots more youtube videos. A quick look-through on youtube will show you that his videos get watched millions of times, and I mean millions. Even before signing to Warner Bros, he was playing stadiums to hundreds of thousands of people.
And this week Jake Miller came to Europe
And this week Jake Miller came to Europe. Not to bestride stadiums, but to start out small. It seems that despite youtube and the internet and all of that, he’s not much known in Europe, and so he’s starting from the beginning again, to an extent. I would have thought that a big hitter like Warner Bros would have seen him as prime popstar material and given him a good push over here, but I would have been wrong.
It seemed like a good opportunity to see what happens
Whether out of a startlingly clever long-term promotion plan or out of….er, something else, Jake Miller came with virtually no promotion to the shores of Berlin. Which in a weird way made it a more interesting gig. Since he is, as I say, fucking huge in the US and for his first ever European performance he was booked to play Bi Nuu, one of the smaller music clubs in town – and one known for an inditasteful booking policy – it seemed like a good opportunity to see what happens to someone who’s more used to playing to audiences in their thousands than in their hundreds – or their tens – when they’re stripped of the popstar trappings and it’s just them and a hundred kids in a club.
So off we trotted along to Bi Nuu this last Monday night to see what it’s about.
As I say, Bi Nuu ain’t big. It was also on this night not full. There were maybe sixty kids crowded at the front, and even as I walked in and saw Jake Miller on stage with an acoustic guitar standing on the low stage with the crowd around him, I realised that for everyone that was here, this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For fans of a young hip-hopper and singer who’s already well on his way to the top, and who in his home country has already played at festivals to crowds of 200,000, to spend an evening so up-close and personal was more like being at a backstage afterparty than being at your usual club gig.
The three of them gave their all
And as I stood back and watched him I realised that, young as he is, I was watching a consummate professional. Despite being used to play for huge crowds, he took the fact of playing a half-empty small club gig completely in his stride. He had on stage with him a DJ dude and a drummer – special credit to the barechested drummer for grinning like an ecstatic wildman all through the show – and the three of them gave their all.
Jake did everything that you’d want him to do
Jake did everything that you’d want him to do: He gave the crowd love, he was their best friend, he chatted happily, he got everyone waving their hands in the air and singing along, he did a few songs alone with an acoustic guitar, he jumped up and down on the loud ones, he got a bunch of kids on stage with him to dance and help him sing one of the more grindlike hits, and he looked like he was having a great time.
Happy to do a full-on balls-to-the-wall show whether there’s ten kids or ten thousand
I remembered some time ago booking small gigs in a venue outside Berlin and there were a couple of German indie bands who had sold maybe a couple of hundred records and who were pissed off and disgruntled to see that there was only a small audience to play for. The singer of one of these bands, when I asked him how long they were going to play, told me, “Depends on how many people come.” I know a lot of more alternative artists would look at Jake Miller and sneer: He’s a kid, he became successful at a young age, he’s squeaky clean (anyone remember Justin Bieber a few years ago?). But he was a true professional, and he’s the kind of artist who will succeed, and who will go on doing well, because firstly, he obviously loves what he does, and secondly, he’s happy to do a full-on balls-to-the-wall show when he’s on stage, whether there’s ten kids or ten thousand. And that’s how you separate the kids from the men.
So, yeah. I say, well done. A lot of indie artists bimbling around the Berlin clubs could learn a lot from him.
Review by Noel Maurice
Pictures by Mia Morris
Noel Maurice is one of the founders of indieberlin. Originally from the UK via a childhood in Johannesburg, he has been resident in Berlin since 1991. Describing himself as a ‘recovering musician’, he is the author of The Berlin Diaires, a trilogy detailing the East Berlin art and squat scene of the early 90s, available on Amazon and through this site.