Buzzing into the New Year
Let's hear more from Siren!
Lex Allen. I'd seen him a week before at a Christmas show, and even his short time on stage there was bursting with so much talent and charisma I knew I had to see him again, even if he was not working my favorite genre. (I'm not a big smooth R&B person.) But he's so good he transcends whatever genre he's working and he crossed plenty during his set of less than a half dozen songs --he name drops Janelle Monae as an influence in his bio, and anybody who does that gets points in my book (and he lives up to the comparison in his breadth of work.) First of all, you can't stop looking at him in his fabulous skintight sequined mini dress that showed off his great legs shoved into shiny black booties. I wouldn't call him a cross-dresser or a drag queen -- he wasn't wearing makeup or trying to hide his masculinity. He simply is a man who looks sensational in a dress (think: David Bowie on the cover of The Man Who Sold the World). He opens his set with some R&B (and wins me over with it), opens up with some classic soul, and the next thing you know, he's kicking out an amal nitrate fueled grind with the jubilant chorus "I STRUCK GOLD!" (yes, he had the crowd singing along) with a groove reminiscent of Lady Gaga's first couple of hits. He poses and preens and sticks out his booty, while assuring us during "Bitch U Fabulous" that we are too. He constantly flirts with a crowd that already loves him, and he writes and performs catchyass songs that should be hits. In the meantime, Q the Sun and Gilbert are holding down the fort and making it look easy. I'm downloading his latest album now (oh, and he covers Pete Townshend.)
The show didn't stop there. A couple of hip hop guys (and your white girl blogger from the suburbs could be misinterpreting the genre) -- Webster X and Lorde Fredd33 took the stage and got Gilbert out from behind the drums but the beats went on. This is the part where I need to say something about how hard it must be to mix the sound in that room with its high ceilings and brick walls, with sounds bouncing off like crazy. Because the thing with rappers is that the words are important, and I want to be able to hear them, and this wasn't a great environment to do that. Plus, Webster X sings his raps -- he puts melody behind his words but his phrasing is pure rap. Like Lex Allen, he has a soulful timbre to his vox, and it serves his delivery well: he's emotional and pointedly clear about what drives that emotion. I wish I could have heard his words better. Lorde Fredd33 suffered a similar fate: he was riveting and engaging, and also could sing many of his raps, but I felt like I was missing something important as I struggled to hear the words. I went online to check out his stuff and yes, this guy has a lot to say that needs to be heard. He's got a more vicious vibe (he describes himself as a "stage stomping shit talker") but it isn't all doom and gloom -- both Webster X and Lorde Fredd33 were also fun, furiously fun and again, Q the Sun and Gilbert are still the constant holding it all together.
their latest album shows a band with songwriting flair and some good (often sinister) melodies and tempo changes and a thematic variety that I thought was missing from this live performance. This record actually has some psychobilly to it! I probably would have enjoyed the performance more had I listened to this record beforehand. This crowd would have accepted a downtempo moment or two from them -- about 80% of the audience clearly already knew their songs and Smith could have probably read the dictionary to them and gotten the love -- she's got the voice and the stage presence to do so. And so they're a band I need to see again, in a different environment, to really appreciate them-- I bet they'd be great on a bill with the Grovelers. The show that night was for the fans -- and they delivered a set for them.