Saturday night in the Red Room at Berklee’s Café 939 was a special showcase—three talented groups played to a packed room: The Grace Kelly Experiment, Neo-Soul Ensemble, and Columbus. It was also Parents Weekend.
Friends and family and more came to see these talented students show their stuff. The bands had plenty to be thrilled about as well, as tonight they would receive a full share of the ticket proceeds. Yes, Café 939 was packed and buzzing, the large red curtain absorbing the luminescent shifts of the stage lighting as awesome music tickled the crowd.
Grace Kelly opened the evening with a soulful blend of original material and standards. Kelly and her band started with their own instrumental arrangement of “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone,” rolling out a strong supply of her sax. The second song, “Eggshells,” was an original—Kelly said she got the inspiration from time abroad in Germany, when a friend used the phrase “walking on eggshells.” The performance incorporated a shaker, cute and clever with the title. “Sweet Sweet Baby” followed, which also happens to be the group’s first music video, featuring fans, friends and family. After two more original pieces, Kelly and crew wrapped up with a sensuous cover of “Summertime.”
Neo-Soul Ensemble appeared next, a large collective of Berklee artists performing material infused with the sounds of 90’s R&B and dashes of funk. Paying tribute to some of their favorite artists, Neo-Soul opened their set with a cover of Erykah Badu’s “Bag Lady” and “Back in the Day.” More fun and passionate covers followed, such as “The Way” and Prince’s “Pop Life.” The array of vocalists within the ensemble were unbelievably gifted, and provided ample justice to the group’s arrangements of well-known R&B and Soul tracks.
Continuing with the funk and soul, Columbus closed the night. Another large collective, Coumbus’ jamming recalled sounds of the Parliament-Funkadelic and Sly & the Family Stone. Columbus got into audience interaction, picking a lucky young lady named Denise and serenading her with a saxophone solo piece. Parents got into hustling around in the back, dancing and bouncing their heads around—no embarrassed kids in sight unless they had buried their faces. Columbus got the room moving with a closing orchestration of “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” and continued funk jams through the end of their set.
The Berklee groups displayed a tremendous amount of talent, giving their friends and family a lot to be proud of.
Jonah Parzen-Johnson at Lilypad
Jonah Parzen-Johnson has an innate ability to make the baritone sax sound like bagpipes, and maybe that’s why I cried.
Mostly I cried because Jonah tells radiant stories with his saxophone and analog synth, working the brass and pedals to recreate the framework which surrounds his album Remember When Things Were Better Tomorrow: Parzen-Johnson wanted to make “something of myself that’s for everybody else.”
Jonah opened his set with “Stay There, I’ll Come to You,” showcasing the harmony between synth and sax right off the bat. With haunting lilts, the two combined into a ribbon of melody, pulsating inside the ear as well as the heart. Much like the song’s title, Jonah was the one approaching the audience as an experimental troubadour of tête-à-tête.
The back stories and thoughts behind each song tied in so well with the raw, almost throaty sax, developing such strong, emotional resonance with the musical layers. The skeleton shook.
Speedy Ortiz “riiiiise above and gliiiiiide away” at The Sinclair
The Sinclair was a packed house Wednesday night for the Speedy Ortiz CD release party; as a hometown gig for the Northampton, MA-based band, kinetic warmth buzzed through friends and fans alike as Sadie Dupuis and crew played their freshly-release Foil Deer track-by-track.
What’s a party without some guests, though? That’s where Krill and Mitski come in.
Krill kicked off the night with some tracks from A Distant Fist Unclenching, other goods from Lucky Leaves. Lead singer/bassist Jonah Furman brought to mind early (read: good) Billy Corgan, which I’m not sure he will appreciate. But I think he’ll appreciate this: I couldn’t stop laughing because then I kept thinking about Marilyn Manson telling Billy Corgan that he looked like Charlie Brown.
Opening with “Theme from Krill,” the Boston trio has a knack for rhythm and melody that burrows into your brain. The dreamy bleakness of “Purity of Heart.” The discordant garage rock and hiccupping guitar and warbly Scooter-ness of “Foot.” Krill’s sound is a good, comfy noise that keeps you wiggling and all that good stuff. Be sure to catch the band at Boston Calling.
Years & Years at Royale Boston
During winter storm Juno, UK electro pop group Years & Years were forced to cancel the first show of their two-night stint in New York City back in January. After the snow finally melted, they made the rounds again this past March, playing several shows in California, South by Southwest before finally landing in Boston.
Due to popular demand, the show was moved from The Sinclair to the Royale in downtown’s Theater District.
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