In 1969, the late, great David Bowie sang of a ‘Memory Of A Free Festival’, where he painted a psychedelically idyllic cultural end of summer awakening. Love was free and the “ragged and naive” Heaven he detailed was likely seen through LSD-tinted glasses. But this, in many ways, is everything we have dreamt of a festival being: a sharing of self in return for another, in the hope of creating a more complete whole. I know. It sounds like hippy dippy shit. What I’m getting at is that times have changed and we are living the change.
Festival culture is a bland and commercialized concoction crafted by wireless phone service providers and $10 beers while being forced to adhere to lists of acceptable behaviors and unacceptable favors that likely involves being patted down and having an inconspicuous Aspirin tossed from your bag because, well, you can’t be too sure.
The Austin City Limits Festival, though celebrating its 15th year, is still a newbie on the line-up of notable festivals and has deviated from its roots but in doing so has pulled out all the stops as far as the line-up is concerned for its 2016 twin weekender. Given these limitations, restrictions and boundaries, ACL celebrates more than itself but a vintage festival truth that even Bowie himself could lyricize: the music.
Gracing festival goers with an eclectic line-up from Willie Nelson to LCD Soundsystem, ACL was an opportunity to discover and rediscover and, in the case of 2016, it did not disappoint. In fact, if you closed your eyes just tight enough, it may have felt like the real thing.
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Synth pop (and its overzealous, super obnoxious cousin, EDM) has become ubiquitous. It can feel like every mall, Uber, and office bathroom is streaming Passion Pit and its offspring at any given moment, so it’s tough to do something that feels fresh in the genre. Inspiringly, Prinze George pulls it off. They took the small, tented Tito’s stage early on Friday, and had a party. Drummer Isabelle De Leon and instrumentalist Kenny Grimm looked like they were having the time of their lives, mouthing along to the lyrics of the songs just like a hardcore fan would do. Meanwhile, vocalist Naomi Almquist put a spell on the audience. Her power was palpable; her voice smooth and glittering, and her stare unwavering, she had complete control of the stage. She’s the kind of front woman you can’t take your eyes off of. Newer songs, like ‘Move It’, were equally as engaging as the group’s better-known tracks ‘Upswing’ and ‘Victor’, but they also threw potential fans a bone with a haunting cover of Prince’s ‘I Would Die 4 U’. By the end of their set, Prinze George’s free-spirited dancing onstage mirrored the crowd’s, and everyone was in love.
The Naked And Famous
Charming New Zealanders The Naked And Famous performed their moody electronic dance tunes Saturday evening, giving the setting sun an appropriate soundtrack. The group has a lot of memorable jams, but most still come from their oldest record, ‘Passive Me, Aggressive You’. They didn’t waste time before giving the crowd a few of these hits, like ‘Punching In A Dream’ and ‘All Of This’, which acted as shots of energy to break up newer songs that don’t fully define themselves apart from one another. ‘Higher’ is the standout, with an easy snap-along beat driving the song forward to a chant-worthy chorus. In contrast, ‘Laid Low’ is mushy and forgettable. While TNAF’s signature is danceable synth jams, one of the most romantic moments of their ACL setlist came with ‘Rolling Waves’. Singer Alisa Xayalith is allowed to fill the world with her voice on this song, and it did its job, lifting up listeners into a lovely, pastel dream.
When you’re headed to an Andrew Bird set, you know to expect some impressive whistling. And yet, no matter how many times you’ve seen him perform, the first time Bird breaks out his iconic trill, it bowls you over all over again. With the new stage layout at this year’s ACL, audience members had some concern about sound bleed from the stage across the field, where Two Door Cinema Club were hosting an outdoor disco. But Bird held his own, with a full band of impressive musicians and charming delivery of clever lyrics. Case in point: on the title track for Bird’s latest album, ‘Are You Serious’, he mocks his listeners, “But are you serious when it really comes down to it?” Bird almost seemed to be simultaneously performing a juggling act during his set, as he moved from instrument to instrument seamlessly. He’d wail on his violin while singing ‘Heretics’, and then grab a guitar for ‘Truth Lies Low’. The crowd favorite was easily ‘Plasticities’, as hundreds of voices rose to declare, “We’ll fight, we’ll fight.”
Early fame is a blessing and a curse. You suddenly have exposure others could only dream of, but you’ve also got the overnight expectations to match, which can lead to a crash-and-burn scenario. I’ll be honest; I was worried that this was the direction that Local Natives were headed. As a diehard ‘Gorilla Manor’ fan, ‘Hummingbird’ left a lot to be desired; as a diehard Beyoncé fan, the group’s live cover of ‘All Night’ felt like a nasally, hollow clickbait move. The Californians started their Sunday set slow – they had a huge crowd who were mostly crossing their arms and, at best, tapping a toe. But by the sixth song, the guys dug into their history and pulled out ‘Airplanes’, which was welcomed with wide-open arms. When they were done, bassist/singer Taylor Rice said: “We love you. Don’t you know it? We played that song to like 10 people back in 2009 – Austin felt like the first city that cared about us.” This declaration of appreciation felt like a total energy shift, and suddenly, the crowd of hundreds felt like an intimate nightclub. One of the highlights that followed was a new track from ‘Sunlit Youth’ called ‘Fountain Of Youth’. Rice introduced it by saying, “There’s a lot of reason to be cynical. But we feel like there’s more reason to be optimistic. Please get registered to vote. Thank you guys very much.” For a song whose lyrics proclaim “Thank you, Mrs. President,” the Local Natives don’t mince words around their political views, and in ‘Fountain Of Youth’, they’ve created a stirring modern anthem, announcing: “Caring is cool.” Then, they closed out their set with back-to-back oldies. ‘Who Knows Who Cares’ was a sweet lullaby, but ‘Sun Hands’ let the band leave everything out on the floor, as Rice jumped into the crowd to surf during his shouty solo. If there was any fear that the Local Natives had lost momentum, they cured the anxiety with a well-paced set, earnest attitudes and engaging new songs.
The most fun crowd of Austin City Limits showed up for Miike Snow’s Sunday set weekend one. It’s a bold claim, but there’s proof to back it up: there were dance-offs, twerk circles, and sing-alongs for the ages. Strangers linked arms, and sweat mixed with sweat to create magic as the sun went down. It shouldn’t be surprising that a band like Miike Snow could bring the party – with production duo Bloodshy & Avant (AKA Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg) at the helm, every Snow song has an element of fun and a beat that’s undeniable. Now, add a dash of the lovably eccentric, charming and dance-gifted lead singer Andrew Wyatt, and you’ve got a recipe for true success. Whereas some ACL acts had to contend with audiences who were less familiar with their newer material, Miike Snow’s sing-alongs were as loud for ‘Ghenghis Khan’, ‘My Trigger’ and ‘Heart Is Full’ as they were for ‘Black & Blue’ and ‘Paddling Out’. The band has made some significant changes in their live show – there are fewer stage members of Miike Snow than in the past, when it felt like the band was primarily made up of an army of knob-twisters. They’ve also traded spaceship-shaped speakers for pianos and guitars, and the live instrumentation they’ve moved towards allows for a more organic, unique concert experience. There may not be a band today more suitable to a music festival than the hard-working, dance-driven Miike Snow.
If you’re a person who is upset with James Murphy and his band of “substitute teachers” for decided to reunite five years after their “funeral,” you should stop reading this particular review now. If you’re delighted that one of your favorite bands of all time, who manage to create intricate, lyrically biting and forever endearing epic dance songs, have decided to grace us once again with their presence, you were probably in attendance at their Sunday night headlining ACL set. The show started with the drop of a disco ball and an increasingly insistent battle song, ‘Us v Them’, and exploded right away into the classic, ‘Daft Punk Is Playing At My House’. LCD’s audience was another uniquely respectful and reverent one – there was no pushing your way to the front only to talk loudly over the songs; there didn’t even seem to be any standing still. It was all pogoing and fist-pumping and shouting lyrics with your arms around your friends. The middle of the set was relentless, as ‘Get Innocuous!’ morphed into ‘You Wanted A Hit’, which was followed by ‘Tribulations’, ‘Movement’ and ‘Yeah’. Voices were lost along the way, but if there was anything left, it was given for the final five songs. ‘Someone Great’ was tearfully beautiful; ‘Losing My Edge’ allowed Murphy to once again reflect on his aging (and we all felt it a little personally now, too). ‘New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down’ is the hipster version of a drunken Irish bar song, and as people swayed and slowed down, the blessing of this band’s return was fully felt. After a brief break, Murphy, keyboard player Nancy Whang, drummer Pat Mahoney and the rest of the motley crew came back to make sure there wasn’t a drop of sweat left preserved. ‘Dance Yrself Clean’ was, appropriately, the biggest dance party of the night, and ‘All My Friends’ was breathless and perfect. It’s always a mix of hopefulness, longing and heartbreak when Murphy declares, “To tell the truth, this could be the last time,” but if it was, it couldn’t have been better.
Morgan Kibby’s departure from M83 left a huge void that seemingly cannot be filled. Her replacement, singer and keyboardist Kaela Sinclair, has a fine voice. But Morgan was untouchable, an enchanting songstress who would get swept up in the magic of the music, which would sweep the crowd right up with her. Now, the band’s real hero is Jordan Lawlor. The multi-instrumentalist’s boundless energy often carries the show – who would think that watching a guy play the cowbell could be so enjoyable? When Lawlor isn’t doing a static running-man while cowbelling, he’s likely leaping off of the drum kit, ripping out a major riff on guitar or bass, or kicking off a group clap. Meanwhile, M83 mastermind Anthony Gonzalez seemed quieter and more subdued at his group’s Friday ACL set. Maybe it’s because M83 has been to Austin so many times over the past few years, and the show is feeling a bit stale; maybe it’s the missing chemistry of powerhouse Kibby. Whatever the reason, the surprising standouts of the evening were ‘Do It, Try It’ and ‘Go!’. These ‘Junk’ tracks add needed new life into the M83 live show, and it’s clear that they’re the bands’ favorites right now, too. The set overall was still visually beautiful and very enjoyable – M83 is one of few bands whose quietest song, ‘Outro’, is a highlight of the set, both stirring and delicate. Hopefully, the next album will see a return to lush production, and a less foreboding title than ‘Junk’.
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“Are you ready to step into my world?” asked 20-year-old indie hip-hop messiah Raury, who brought his brand of contagious consciousness to a sweltering early afternoon crowd who was more than willing to explore his planet of poetic positivity. Donning a Michael Jackson shirt, it was hard not to draw immediate parallels to the king of pop and the flamboyant and energetic swagger of this fresh faced MC. Lush choral tracks paired with live drums paved a primal pathway for Raury’s firing vocals. Halfway through an undeniably exciting set, Raury grabs an acoustic guitar for ‘Trap Tears’, an existentially charged and sincere hip-hop track that commentates on societal expectations. Heavy right? Well, Raury is no stranger to using his platform to “prime revolutionary minds,” as he introduced an unreleased song written on the road titled ‘Should Have Listened To My Mom’, which found a way to touch on police brutality against black youth in a way that is hauntingly relevant and raw. “No matter who you are or who you’re going to be you are no different than the skin next to you. You hear me?” The crowd agreed with a roar and we felt as if we had been properly schooled in the art of positive vibes, with some beautifully ratchet beats to accompany our lesson plan.
There is no question that of all the acts of weekend 2 that Flying Lotus was in fact the most lit. Celebrating his birthday from behind the DJ booth, set to look like a giant digital equal sign as if he were a mathematician of beautifully conflicted and sensual chill, Flying Lotus was all smiles. Channelling the likes of Squarepusher by mixing in what he referred to as “cosmic jazz,” FlyLo’s electromagnetic and totally spastic duality made it clear that he was producing the experience he would want to have if the roles were switched. Starting out with an Oz-like man-behind-the-curtain vibe, Lotus spread his wings and became more and more vocal and confrontational as the Patron bottle he was drinking from seemed to appear emptier and emptier. “Y’all are just chillin’,” he said, pointing out the noticeably docile audience. “I’m just gonna play weird shit, then.” He held up this promise but not without even more intoxicated commentary, pointing out the “one Asian” in the audience and giving a fuck you to 2016 and its “feminist memes” and “bearded bros,” and even mocking his agent, who was likely backstage sweating bullets over his off-the-cuff rampage. “Post whatever the fuck you want. It’s all gonna end with a comet in your face or some shit.” Theatrics and nihilistic vibrato aside, Flying Lotus delivered a texturally eclectic set that tangoed with intergalactic time travel as much as it swayed with nostalgic tones and grooves of yesteryear.
Band Of Horses
For a band that has made a career out of making sedated and cathartic soundtracks to break up and make up to, Band Of Horses still carry the torch for being lovelorn lullaby mavericks. Playing to what felt like a slightly disinterested audience who may have been conserving their physical and emotional energy for headliner Radiohead, Band Of Horses lacked an attentiveness that other sets had in visible spades. Why did it feel like Ben Bridwell was singing on a water-damaged microphone? Or as if what we were seeing was actually a hologram and the REAL Ben Bridwell was singing from the tour bus, a beach or some other far away place. This was the only time that a competing set (we heard you, M83!) was audibly clear despite relative closeness to the BOH stage. Technical difficulty aside, nothing could mute the synergy and sensationalizing of having that “It’s not you, it’s me” talk in your ex’s dorm room 10 years ago while ‘No One’s Gonna Love You’ played on repeat from your second generation iPod. See, where BOH stands strong, despite having released their well received 5th studio record ‘Why Are You Ok’ earlier this year (which got plenty of love during their ACL set) is their ability to weave their sweeping melodic soundscapes with achingly vulnerable storytelling that feels as if it has been ripped from your experience. This is what is most present and relevant while BOH lays on the sap and substance to an audience that was maybe too overwrought with all the feels to react with the same fervor witnessed throughout earlier parts of the day. Perhaps it was a purposeful striking of a shared and proverbial nerve, forcing us to collectively retreat to times of heartbreak. In that case, job well done, BOH. We totally feel you.
Unsettling. Transfixing. Disorientating. This is not a diagnosis or a list of symptoms, rather an apt description of the hauntingly perplexed two-hour set delivered by Radiohead, inarguably the most enigmatic musical force of the past 20 years. Not for the faint of heart, weak of mind or for those unwilling to spit in the face of inner demons, what was given to us was an invaluable gift and on Thom Yorke’s 48th birthday of all days. Closing out their tour in support of their ninth studio record ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’, Radiohead’s lucidly hypnotic and completely impenetrable performance commanded disturbed resolve by inviting us to lose ourselves, together, with equal parts delicacy and abrasion. It’s hard to consider Radiohead an appropriate festival headliner only because of the commitment required to fully engage, transport and relocate to their frenetically self-aware universe leaves little to no room for emotional detours or fleeting attention spans.
Doused in crimson light, the set opened with the jarring and panic-inducing ‘Burn The Witch’ that, despite lacking the recording’s stabbing string arrangement, found effectively comparable ways to scream into the void of our shared anxiety as if we were in the driver’s seat with an alien set of hands on the wheel; a controlled chasmic eruption beneath the skin. Before Radiohead could attempt the intro for ‘Daydreaming’, the crowd burst into a less than tidy version of ‘Happy Birthday’, to which Thom nodded with prayer hands and a boyish, riddled smile creeping across his face. This expression was reoccurring throughout the night and to anyone looking or taking note could be interpreted as a “fitter, happier” era for the visionary veterans of visceral exploration.
With the first three songs straight off ‘Pool’, it was clear that their latest record was going to be a staple of the set. But if you, like me, had been studying their recent set lists, crafting the ideal line-up, betting yourself which songs would make the cut and what tracks would undoubtedly get left behind, you, like me, would have been wrong. Breaking into 10-year-old ‘My Iron Lung’ then ‘National Anthem’, each song delivered with its appropriately choreographed digital schizophrenia, from seizing lights to tripped out live portraiture, Radiohead overwhelmed us, teasing, tearing and tempting all senses.
Like the masterful sonic puppeteers they are, the set was balanced in tone and gave time and space to float inward and outward, with and against them. It’s as if they made the set they would want to hear, carefully pairing the painfully distant declaration of desire from ‘All I Need’ bleeding into the slightly skewed piano anthem ‘Pyramid Song’, which dreamily flowed into the twinkling, dystopian tear-provoking ‘No Surprises’.
While most ground was covered, it was hard to ignore that ‘The King Of Limbs’ was almost completely snubbed with the exception of the album’s opener, ‘Bloom’, which divided the first half of the set with its howling, warbled chaos. ‘In Rainbows’ was given ample love with the pleasantly unexpected inclusion of ‘Nude’ and ‘Weird Fishes’, whereas 2003’s ‘Hail To The Thief’ seemed like an afterthought, including only ‘The Gloaming’ and ‘There, There’, both of which encapsulate the record thoughtfully but within the set felt a bit lost. All is forgiven, though, as the proper set closed with ‘Idioteque’, a track that marries hopelessness with an internally charged attempt at survival, taking us back to the first time we heard the track in 2000, when we thought the world was surely going to burn. Having finally experienced Radiohead live, I’m glad we were wrong.
The 30-minute encore opened with ‘Let Down’ and included a much-needed ‘Reckoner’ and savory, car crash worthy ‘Paranoid Android’. “I’m happy to have spent my birthday with these buggers and I’m happy to have spent my birthday with you buggers, too. Thank you,” a bashful Yorke admitted before being swallowed in violet stage lighting and strumming the iconic intro to the devastatingly transcendent reality of ‘Fake Plastic Trees’, a song that warmed from within, cooled the skin and danced through the trees of Zilker Park like a farewell whisper, silencing the crowd. Radiohead gave without giving in and solidified what we’ve believed all along (but that’s for them to know and for us to feel). You had to be there.
Only at ACL can the one true punk act dish out angst and distain through gravel mouthed screams yet still find space to spread the love. What alternate universe have we stepped into? Fusing classic British punk and that sweet spot of early 2000’s indie rock, this bombastic two-piece channelled spoken-word punk troubadour Henry Rollins on more than one occasion and at one point instructed the audience to hug a stranger. Pioneers of observational punk, Slaves were not the first or last act to use the microphone to remind us that if we were going to vote for Donald Trump then we could just “fuck off and die.” Consisting of a guitarist and an upright drummer, the thrashing punk purists warned against infecting others with negativity while giving sound advice along the lines of “If you’re not happy in your profession just fucking do something else.” Slaves gave us permission to be pissed off and to not accept what happens to us as truth but rather a disease that is curable. This burst of warm rebellion was received with enough head banging to give a collective headache and enough foot stomping to incite an earthquake. ‘Cheer Up London’ was a tangible highlight where they retract their kind instructional by reminding everyone that they’re, in fact, dead already, presented to us as if it were a high school half-time football cheer if Marilyn Manson were head coach.
The last time Detroit natives JRJR played ACL it was 2011 and they were Dale Earnharrdt Jr Jr and likely sported Nascar suits. Fast-forward to their sophomore stint at ACL and they’ve undergone a name change, dropped (some of) the kitsch, found their niche and have tailored their sound to be a robust blend of electro-pop rooted in rock without compromising sincerity. Shit, they just make you feel good. In a lot of ways, this duo (well, a proper four-piece) has found themselves and are clearly not done exploring. “With the state of the world we decided to dress like The Golden Girls in hopes of not taking ourselves too seriously,” singer Josh Epstein pointed out of the bands sparkling, sequin uniforms. Although pedal heavy with enough looping to scramble brainwaves, JRJR’s live performance swells and bursts with dance beats that tug on heart strings and vocal harmonies that are fresh and swoon worthy. The quartet fired on all cylinders with unexpected thrashing performances on guitar and bass, the drums being a standout element especially on sneakily dark tracks like ‘War Zone’ and ‘Nothing But Our Love’. As a nod to their first go at ACL where the band passed out popsicles to ease the heat, they revisited this gesture this time with a proper ice cream man and cart, throwing piles of frozen treats into an excitably sweaty mid-day audience during the track ‘Knock Louder’. The closer and obvious crowd favorite ‘Gone’ – or, more notably ‘The Whistle Song’, from their latest self-titled record – distanced itself enough from the recorded radio version to make it feel new, propelling the outro into a chaotic breakdown that was, in many ways, anti-pop. Embodying the ACL spirit, JRJR kept us guessing, smiling and, of course, dancing.
Cage The Elephant
It’s 2016 and the term “rockstar” is a dim and dying vestige of simpler and wilder times. The term is rarely used to describe even the most riotous personalities of the modern genre and is only assigned to those who have earned it as it encompasses a lifestyle, not just an image of tight pants and cock-grabbing confidence. Ringleader Matt Shultz of Cage The Elephant comes pretty fucking close to fill the void and does so with a caffeinated physicality and sexual prowess reminiscent of an early Mick Jagger. This Nashville outfit has been at it for 10 years and their set is as thoughtful as it is completely untamed. It would be easy to say that it was a hit-heavy set but in reality Cage is a hit-heavy band and likely made most folks go, “Oh shit, they sing this song? AND this one?” a few times during their hour-long party. Cage’s tantric rock circus was true to their rowdy brand of revivalist rock that feels dangerous and dirty enough to be fittingly labeled rock without any nuance of novelty. From their first breakout single ‘Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked’ to their more recent sing-along-worthy ‘Cigarette Daydreams’ and ‘Come A Little Closer’, Cage’s diverse, yet cohesive body of music had the crowd eating from the palm of their hands.
If the name Conor Oberst means something to you then you, like me, probably spent the years 2002 to 2008 complicating romantic endeavors for the sake of artistic sacrifice and likely cried as many tears as drinks you attempted to numb yourself with. Ah, yes. The good old days. Oberst’s musical masochistic massage may have felt more at home on the ACL stage 10+ years ago, as we were begrudgingly reminded of all that has changed and all that is distorted in our weary world. But this isn’t to say he wasn’t made to feel at home by the captivated crowd who, again, if were anything like me knew that we were sharing an intimate moment with one of the most revered songwriters of our generation. Though given a prime time slot, he wasn’t alone (and did not let us forget it.) “This might be hard to hear with that Verizon commercial going on,” Oberst said in his first of many ornery comments, no doubt referring to the noticeably distracting sound bleed from the adjacent stage where pop favorites Two Door Cinema Club did their peppy pop thing. The bitterness didn’t end there. Oberst’s creed of condescension went on to explain how a piano is like a laptop (but different) and pointed out that libraries are virtually extinct and that we should just go on our “fucking computers” to look “it” up (it being a “ballad,” something only our grandparents would fully understand). Oberst’s attack on the selfie generation did not distract from the seamlessness of his full band ensemble and the spotlight, despite the ongoing Verizon commercial, could not hide the vulnerable intricacies of his feral vocal caress covering everything from his Bright Eyes days to his work with the Mystic Valley Band, to his most recent solo work as featured on ‘Ruminations’. His lament warbled as it has and does, and his tortured poetry woven tirelessly by his confessionary observations fought its way from his mouth, sounding like the brink of tears was always a syllable away. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. Either way, Oberst still knows how to be tender without caring too much about what we think.
There is something spiritual about watching Kendrick Lamar. He’s more than a hashtag or a buzzword, serving as a defiant answer to the modern rap equation. Yes, his non-formulaic approach might make it difficult to tag him as a superstar, but watching him play to thousands of densely packed disciples, Kendrick Lamar has the power and uses it for purpose bigger than ego. He’s got that thing.
Pulling from last year’s ‘Untitled’ collection, which allowed anticipatory breadth for banger hits like ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’ and ‘Swimming Pools’ – both of which riled an already turnt audience into a frenzy. The poignancy of his choice of projected imagery – all black and white, ranging from civil rights footage, to a loop of George W. Bush tripping, to piercing shots of Lamar’s eyes darting left to right, closing on occasion as if to flip the script on the audience vs. the performer – added an unexpected depth to the seven-time Grammy-award-winning artist. It is during tracks like ‘M.A.A.D City’ and ‘Backstreet Freestyle’ that we are reminded of how much work Lamar has released in such a short amount of time, none of which is a phoned in attempt to stay relevant. It’s as if relevancy finds him, his material ripped straight out of headlines and experiences torn straight from his heart lines. Lamar gives a voice to the voiceless and gives all creeds permission to party through the madness. There is something remarkably poised about how Lamar commands the stage, yet during tracks like ‘King Kunta’, ‘Alright’ and ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ favorite ‘i’, his visible togetherness cracks open into a torrid fit of fervor and a palatable mania as if what was being said needed to be said.
A voice like Christopher Gallant’s comes around once in a lifetime, this I am sure of. Having only released his first full-length record this year, watching Gallant live will be something to remember 10 years from now when his name holds more weight than Drake. Backed by a full band with a gold microphone in hand, the moment Gallant opens his mouth his atmosphere defying vocal control is seductive and could undoubtedly rival [insert list of impressive vocalists here]. He is being coined as the voice of futuristic soul, fusing the contemporary with classic ’90s R&B nuances, while his androgynously effortless vocal range challenges genres and genders with a piercingly and guttural emergence. If you think Usher made music to get busy to, Gallant makes songs to get busy to and calls you back the next day, which will likely result in a long-term relationship that ends not out of maliciousness but from having outgrown each other, ending with a totally amicable separation. Wow. Maybe I’m overthinking this or maybe I’m just completely in love with what Gallant is doing. Considering he doesn’t have a vast body of work to pull from, his hour-long set was a perfect opportunity to showcase the best and brightest from his debut along with a couple of new songs, all of which seamlessly created a sensual, spiritual and sexual awakening. Gallant, we’re watching you!
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Words: Caitlin Teibloom (Weekend 1) / Jerilyn Jordan Cook (Weekend 2)
Photography: Katherine Squier