I’m a sucker for new R&B music. When I heard KCRW play Shy Girls’ Shy Girls’ “Voyeur’s Gaze” on Morning Becomes Eclectic in 2013, I was hooked. When I saw that they were opening for a band named Phosphorescent, I immediately bought a ticket. I had no idea about the headlining act, but that didn’t matter. It had been close to a year since I saw them perform, and I was jonesing to see them perform again.
The performance was short, but it was everything that I anticipated: smooth vocals over a tight knit band playing music with an 80s and early 90s R&B vibe.
The first two times I saw Shy Girls perform live, they didn’t play the song that hooked me in the first place, “Voyeur’s Gaze”. When I had asked them about why didn’t perform that song since it was the song that KCRW decided to spin, they indicated that the arrangement was a bit too complex for them to play live. They remedied the omission this time around and it was, to my complete satisfaction, performed as a song in the middle of their set.
Apparently, I was the only one in the audience excited to hear the tune. Instinctually, I yelped out a very audible, “Yes,” when the opening vocals and keyboard chord progression were played. I got a few giggles from some of the audience members around me, and under my breath, but audible, I felt it necessary to qualify my blurt with, “Can’t help it, it’s my favorite song of theirs.”
I soon realized that the crowd wasn’t here to listen to Shy Girls smooth R&B jams. I further deduced that headlining act’s style of music was at the opposite side of the spectrum because if the audience wasn’t feeling what Shy Girls was putting forth on stage that night … well, they were here for something else.
And it’s a bit of a shame. Shy Girls is a Red Bull Sound Select artist. I would have thought that Red Bull, the host of the concert series, could have done a better job at procuring a line-up that was more consistent. I went to the Chet Faker 30 Days In LA show later in the month, and I can easily say that Shy Girls would have KILLED IT if they were one of the opening acts for that evening’s music. In fact, switching James Supercave from the Chet Faker night, with Shy Girls would have been my choice.
The highlight of the evening was when Shy Girls’ covered Brandy’s “Sittin’ Up In My Room” (a demo recording of which is above). It was simple and sublime. It was a performance of an R&B classic that anybody with an inkling of appreciation for type of R&B music would have loved. I just wish more people could have truly appreciated it.
VIDEOS:The Instagram videos that I uploaded somehow got corrupted. 😦
I was driving around town while listening to KCRW when the silky vocals and opening keyboard chord progression of a smooth jam gently flowed through my car’s speaker circuits. A rhythm guitar stealthily crept in, sweeping into a late 80’s, early 90’s, drum program with a subtle flourish line added to the chords that caught my attention. I know it’s dangerous to fiddle with your phone while driving, but I had to open up Shazam to find out who the artist was. It was Shy Girls and the track was “Voyeurs Gaze”. A throwback to the smooth R&B I grew up with.
When I got home, I immediately got online to listen to more tracks by Shy Girls. After listening to tracks from their latest EP “Timeshare”, I pulled out my credit card and purchased the LP. I’m selective about the vinyl that I buy, only purchasing records that I could let the pin drop and let play without having to get back up to skip tracks. For me, “Timeshare” was one of those albums.
After finding the artist’s Facebook page, I noticed that they had two scheduled performances the following week in Los Angeles, one at the Spare Room and the other at the Bootleg Bar. Being that the artist was from Portland, Oregon, I decided that this may be my only chance to see them perform for a while, so I planned on attending both shows.
I had a feeling that the shows would have been perfect for a date with a significant other, but c’est la vie en Los Angeles. The music is sensual. Being single, and living in Los Angeles (where convincing people that the music you like is in fact good is like pulling teeth), I’ll admit that I had second thoughts at the idea of going solo. I shrugged it off.
I was right. On both nights, Dan Vidmar and his band brought a mood I haven’t heard at a concert since I saw at Maxwell at the Hollywood Bowl. Like Maxwell, Dan Vidmar made good use of his breathy, falsetto singing engaging the audience to willingly become seduced. If I were at the show with a date, I would have made my move after the first song.
If “Timeshare” is the precursor to a full length album, there’s a lot for me to look forward to, and hopefully, by the time he goes on tour to support that album, I’ll have a date for the show.
The lighting in the venues was extremely difficult to deal with, but I did what I could. Unfortunately, the Flickr slideshow below is not currently available on mobile devices. If you are on a mobile device, please click THIS LINK to get redirected to the set of photos.
Earlier this year, I saw Hiatus Kaiyote on a whim, and they blew my mind. From Melbourne, Australia, this “future soul” band has a sound that I particularly love. As soon as I found out that they would playing in Los Angeles again, I bought tickets as soon as they went on sale.
Since the first time I saw them, back in March, the band has toured internationally and signed to Salaam Remi‘s Sony-distributed Flying Buddha label, and re-released Tawk Tomahawk with a bonus track — a version of album highlight “Nakamarra” featuring a guest verse from Q-Tip.
I got to the venue and went straight to the merchandise table. I was specifically hoping that the poster for the event, which was posted on Facebook a few weeks prior, would be available for sale. It was a gorgeous looking poster, and I wanted a copy very badly. Unfortunately, the posters were not for sale and the only ones that I could find were either pasted to a wall, or hanging from the bar. I asked the bartender if he’d sell me one of his posters, but said no, going as far as to say that he owned everything in “his” bar and that nothing except for drinks were for sale. I went back to the merchandise booth to ask the woman working there if I could carefully peel a poster from off the wall, and she said that she wouldn’t permit that, but as she was speaking she saw a poster drop to the floor. She smiled and told me it was my lucky day. Indeed! I got the poster autographed after the show, and it’s going to have a permanent spot in my collection.
The opening act was Contact Field Orchestra, an instrumental project from Damon Aaron. Using a box of 7” tapes of field recordings recorded almost entirely of hand-made instruments and contact microphones from the turn of the century that he purchased at an estate sale, he’s created a sound unique sound of ambient music shrouded in mystery. Prior to the set, he announced to the audience that we may need some medication to appreciate it. I was sober, and I still enjoyed the music.
After his set, the stage hands started setting up for Hiatus Kaiyote. The band’s set was delayed as people were still in line outside trying to purchase tickets at the door … um … don’t people know that they can purchase tickets in advance online? When the band finally got onstage, the lovely soul-stress Nai Palm humbly apologized for the delay, which was really no fault of their own, and the band commenced the audience’s journey to soul-town.
I am a music dweeb, and what I love about watching live shows is how the live performance compares to recordings that I’ve previously absorbed. The first time I watched Hiatus Kaiyote perform, I was only somewhat familiar with their music, but this time around, I must have listed to the original release of “Tawk Tomhawk” at least 15 times digitally, and 10 times spinning on vinyl (the original pressing from Australia that I purchased after seeing them the first time, which I also got autographed after the show), so I’d like to think I knew the tracks pretty well.
They blew my mind once again. They took all of the songs I knew and took them to places that amazed me. Nai’s vocals were as soulful and jazzy as ever. So much soul, it was overflowing. The band’s musical oneness was on full display. Paul Bender’s bass, Simon Mavin’s keys, and Perrin Moss’ drums exhibited a musical synergy that most bands can only dream of, each taking their moments throughout the set to exhibit their own personal flares of musical ingenuity. Paul Bender was steady on bass, but added his own funky flares. Simon Mavin’s effortless playing on the keys allowed him to flourish and expand upon those keyboard moments that I loved so much from the album. His playing on “The World It Softly Lulls” is mesmerizing:
I was particularly impressed with Perrin Moss’ drumming as there were certain moments that shocked and lifted me; sneaky little drum licks that only lasted for a brief moment, but that caught me by surprise. Speaking with someone after the gig, I was told that he had spent the whole day in a drum session, so he was probably inspired to try new sounds for the set.
After the show, a friend of mine was able to get me back stage to hang out for a moment. I had a chance to talk with the members of the band and they spoke about their experiences from touring and their plans to record new recordings after their current tour. Damon Aaron was also backstage chopping it up with Miguel Atwood Ferguson and I politely interrupted the conversation to a get a photograph. I was also lucky enough to see Nai jam a cappella with Moses Sumney for an exclusive with KCRW DJ Jeremy Sole. Magic.
Me and the lovely Nai.
The band had to pack up an great ready to catch a 4:00am flight to Chicago, so my friend and I saw them off in their tour van. If I recall correctly, they may be back in November for another gig and to record locally. Hopefully, I’ll be able to catch up with them on a personal level again, but most definitely I will be buying a ticket to see them perform.
Add Hiatus Kaiyote on Facebook, and follow them on Instagram and Twitter using the handle @HiatusKaoiyote. You should follow them. You need to see them perform live. Do it.