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Jake Bugg’s folk-punk takes U.K. by storm

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Melds influences: Youthful British singer-songwriter Jake Bugg says his inspirations include John Martyn

Jake Bugg is undoubtedly one of 2013’s most promising new artists. His self-titled overseas debut hit No. 1 in his native Britain upon its October release. In the past two years, he played a BBC-sponsored stage at Glastonbury, toured with Noel Gallagher, opened for a reunited Stone Roses and hung out with personal heroes like Jimmy Page.

Believe it or not, he is just 18, which makes his anachronistic folk-punk approach even more inexplicable.

On his breakthrough single “Two Fingers” (“two fingers” being the English equivalent of America’s flipping the middle-finger bird), he strums 1960s-jangly acoustic chords and croon-wheezes recollections of his council-estate Nottingham upbringing: “I hold two fingers up to yesterday/ Light a cigarette and smoke it all away/ I got out, I got out, I’m alive and I’m here to stay.”

He says, “It’s the kind of song that basically says ‘I don’t give a f***,’ but it’s also about growing up,” he says.

Bugg’s genesis was certainly unique. The first song that made an impression on him was Don McLean’s “Vincent,” which he overheard on an episode of “The Simpsons.”

Hoping to escape his working-class environs via high school soccer, he says, “I came back from football training one day and my uncle had a guitar for me. He showed me the basic chords, and I just took it from there.”

Classmates urged Bugg to audition for “Britain’s Got Talent”; he preferred to pen originals and pay his dues.

For his retro sound, he says, “I wanted to take a little bit from each of my eras and idols and try to put it all into one. So I culled from John Martyn, Nick Drake, Buddy Holly, the Beatles and the Everly Brothers.”

When he bumped into Page, he didn’t talk Led Zeppelin, but complimented him on his axwork on Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man.” “His eyes lit up a bit, so I think I said something he doesn’t usually get to hear,” he says, proudly.

A brash Glastonbury 2011 performance landed Bugg — who turns 19 on Feb. 28 — a Mercury Records contract. Soon, he was invited on a world tour with Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.

He didn’t get pointers from his ex-Oasis elder, though. “Because the best advice you can give to anyone is to just practice,” he says. “Keep writing songs — that’s the secret to it all!”


Jake Bugg

Where: Popscene, Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St., S.F.

When: 9 p.m. Friday

Tickets: $15 to $17

Contact: (415) 861-2011, www.snagtickets.com

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