I only popped into Webster Hall’s Marlin Room to see A-WA (pronounced Ay-Wa and translates to “yeah” in Arabic) for a few songs but I quickly found that their colorful attire and winsome beats had gotten the crowd partying hard. It was the band’s celebration for their debut release Habib Galbi and I was lucky enough to catch a moment when the three sisters, Tair, Liron and Tagel Haim, invited a number of fans up onto the stage to dance with them. It was great fun to see them perform especially since I didn’t understand what the Israeli sisters were singing about.
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Leon Bridges was doing open mic nights at a bar, at the same time he worked as a dishwasher, when he was “discovered”. The classic sounding soul/gospel singer was signed to Columbia Records in 2014 and went from playing tiny bars to even smaller crowds to selling-out legendary venues like Nashville’s Ryman in little over a year.
After catching Bridges at one of his early NYC gigs at the Bowery Ballroom, photographer and filmmaker Danny Clinch began working with the musician to create a commercial that aired during the Grammys about Bridges. Clinch ended up with a lot of extra footage, so he created a documentary about Bridges and his return home after his extensive touring.
When I first caught Lawrence during CMJ in 2015, it was a completely chance encounter. I was hanging out in Webster Hall and wandering between floors capturing various bands. I wasn’t sticking around for entire sets for the most part until I went downstairs and saw the youthful Lawrence. Led by brother and sister Clyde and Gracie Lawrence, the band’s soulful sound hooked me. I didn’t get a chance to see them again until well into 2016 and by this point the group had finished recording and had just released their debut album Breakfast (streaming below) which was produced by Eric Krasno (of Soullive). So I got a chance to familiarize myself with the album and, enticed by what I heard, I looked forward to the homecoming show for the New York based group.
At Rockwood, the siblings, plus their band of six other musicians including three brass or woodwind players, had tons of friends, family and fans in tow for a sold-out sweaty show during which they were treated to a soulful course of Breakfast. Including Breakfast songs, Lawrence also performed a few energetic covers, including Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name” and The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back”, that were enhanced by the powerful horns and Gracie’s dynamic vocals. The band closed out their set with an encore of “Me & You”, a song whose funky rhythm possesses the confident strut of a classic ‘70s funk anthem. There’s a lot to look forward to from Lawrence and for the band who will be heading out to draw in more listeners this summer at Bonnaroo.
Going into the Red Bull Music Academy’s “Where Spaceways Meet: A Night of Spiritual Jazz” event, I had imagined there would be a few instances of collaboration between the musicians slated to appear. Unfortunately, that was not the case but audiences were still treated to incredible sets from the groundbreaking artists, Sun Ra Arkestra, Pharoah Sanders and newcomer Kamasi Washington. First thing to mention though, I had to miss most of Kamasi Washington’s set, which was a big disappointment for me, but I was truly pleased with what I had seen and heard by that point.
RMBA events are often in venues off the beaten path of the typical NYC circuit. Last year FKA twigs was at Brooklyn Hangar and this event took place in a warehouse near the river in Greenpoint, with the stage set up in the round so the audience could get a 360 view of the bands performing. I hadn’t ever seen Sun Ra Arkestra or Sanders though I have seen Washington twice, including his first NYC run at Blue Note.
As Tegan and Sara were quick to note, before the end of the second song, their joke bickering could have been construed as a “fight” by a reviewer. The salacious details of the rift between the two would spread far and wide before the night was out. However, there would be nothing further from the truth. Instead, the sisters bantered playfully off each other frequently and extensively throughout the night—as Tegan noted early on, the audience ought to expect thirty minutes of chatter. They discussed their middle school and high school eras (some game called raft which was really just charades but on a raft in a living room), their hair styles (Tegan didn’t seem satisfied with hers) and their fashion (few could see Sara’s fantastic shoes as she unfortunately noted). A particular highlight was Sara’s wonderment (and possible disgust) over the couch people had brought to sit on while they waited in line to get into the show—fans were in line as early as noon it seems—given the effort and the possibility of bedbugs it may hold.
Ultimately though the evening allowed Tegan and Sara the opportunity to share their music in an intimate setting with their fans. Within a set which opened and closed with two acoustic numbers, Tegan and Sara performed career highlights, including several off their previous earworm Heartthrob (one of my favorite pop records of the past decade) and several powerful new tracks, like “Boyfriend” and “Stop Desire”, from their forthcoming Love You to Death (June 3rd; Warner Brothers). Supporting them where two musicians new to their crew, Brendan Buckley on drums and Gabriel McNair on keys, who will also be gearing up with them for a huge North American tour at the end of summer. Their four intimate shows were tough tickets to get but Tegan and Sara then took a more populist approach to spreading their music by performing “Boyfriend” live on Jimmy Fallon’s show the next night. Video of the song and photos from the show follow below.
// Moving Pixels
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