Published Mar 23, 2014Context is everything: Since forming OFWGKTA offshoot the Internet in 2011, producer/DJ/vocalist Syd Tha Kyd and beatmaker/producer Matt Martians have built a following for their spin on late '90s neo-soul/R&B. In that time, the group has carved out a spot within the Tyler, the Creator-headed collective with underrated and overlooked soul-jazz offerings like debut Purple Naked Ladies and last fall's Feel Good album. But it's fair to say that folks digging their style of R&B music were initially intrigued by the Odd Future brand connection, but stuck around because they liked what they heard.
Show openers Ice Cream and BizZarh did the job of priming the crowd. Doom-pop duo Ice Cream (Amanda Crist and Carlyn Bezic) represent an intriguing mix of bass guitar grooves, deadpan-style vocals and synthy sensibilities that leave you curious for more. Part Bahamadia, part Vinia Mojica, the Toronto hip-hop/soul duo of Charli Champ and Dollar Paris — otherwise known as BizZarh — have an easygoing, stage-owning presence that leave you wondering when they are going to get around to dropping that long-awaited EP. "This is Goddess Rap," proclaimed Charli during the set. Beholden to the sounds of Erykah Badu era neo-soul and '90s hip-hop steez, solid tracks from the neo-Soulquarians like "TransFat" and "Anticipation" reinforce the fact the duo have been operating on a "next" level for more than a minute now. Tentatively titled second EP Soft Porn can't arrive soon enough.
Syd, Matt and the rest of the talented band (Jameel Bruner on keys, Patrick Paige on bass, Christopher A. Smith on drums) came onstage to a fair-sized but not full venue, a fact not lost on the bandleader. "We weren't expecting a lot of people. But we're surprised so many turned up," she said, Steamwhistle beer bottle in hand. The just under an hour set featured cuts from their small but impressive discography; it was more like a jam session than a tightly structured show. The band's hook is in weaving elements of the breezy bass, clap-snare grooves of late '90s/early 2000 R&B and recontextualizing it for today's audiences. So the lounge vibe of "They Say" segued straight into a reworking of Jamiroquai's "Too Young To Die" to pleasing effects. "Jamiroquai is kinda like Justin Timberlake and it's really good. I'll send you some stuff tomorrow," I hear the bespectacled bro standing to my left tell his confused companion. (Context.)
Syd is high and in the zone. Her blue sneaks have long been kicked off and she grooves in her Nike Dri-Fits leading band members through tracks like "She DGAF," "Shadow Dance" and "Partner in Crime, Part Two." Syd has a capable voice but isn't a vocalist prone to histrionics or stepping outside her range. On a couple instances she was often singing too low over the track, but her charisma and improvisational singing abilities were suited for the grooves at hand. She shouts out Tyler for their collaboration on "Live It Up" and broke out into faithful renditions of Stevie Wonder's "Too High," Gap Band's "Outstanding" and Timberlake's "Señorita." (The bro's date probably appreciated that last one.)
"We're about to go," said Syd — to the protestations of the crowd — before launching into Feel Good single "Dontcha." By the end, it was apparent that Syd and crew understand that the soul-R&B sound of nearly two decades back still has lasting, far-reaching effects on the music and musicians of today. The Internet have been able to create so much within a short period of time and it will be interesting to see where they take things from here.
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