Pop, Rock & Cabaret for May 1-7 – NY TIMES

Lenny Kravitz (Tuesday) The rocker flashes comedic chops as both a lacquered game show host and a preening bandleader in the video for his single “Stand,” off his ninth album “Black and White America.” In the recent film adaptation of “The Hunger Games” novels, Mr. Kravitz put his smoldering charisma to good use onscreen, though his amiable riffs could benefit from a similar shot of theatrics. He released the album “Strut” last year on his own label, Roxie Records. At 9 p.m., Webster Hall, 125 East 11th Street, East Village, 212-353-1600, websterhall.com/events; sold out. (Anderson)

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (Thursday) The former guitarist-songwriter of Oasis veers only slightly from the Britpop grandiosity of that band — though he drops the constant percussion of his fists connecting with his brother Liam’s face, and vice versa — in this post-Oasis sonic-pop collective. Their self-titled debut, released in 2011, boasted a female choir, woodwinds and strings and harmlessly broad choruses that beg for stadiums. The group’s relatively pared-down second album, “Chasing Yesterday,” landed in February. At 9 p.m., Webster Hall, 125 East 11th Street, East Village, 212-353-1600, websterhall.com/events; sold out. (Anderson)


New York City Nightlife Mourns the Loss of DJ Jess Marquis – VILLAGE VOICE

By Silas Valentino Tue., Apr. 14 2015 at 11:23 AM

Courtesy of Nate “Igor” Smith
DJ Jess

For a little over a decade, the Trash Party thrived as one of New York nightlife’s most beloved institutions. Originally located in the East Village’s Rififi and later moved west to Webster Hall, the Trash Party was an outlet and home for any New Yorker who may have felt like an outcast or been sidelined at other clubs in town but was still drawn to the dance floor. Commanding the music was DJ Jess Marquis, who co-founded Trash in 2003 and continued to serve as its head DJ until the party stopped a year ago, in April 2014.

DJ Jess (born Jess Imler) believed in what he and Trash were accomplishing. Speaking to Cityzen.tv in a 2004 interview, he said, “Trash is a very DIY party. The kids put a lot of effort into it, and are very passionate about the music they hear. This isn’t one of your typical hipster parties, where everyone dresses in black and turns their back on the dance floor. They love and embrace the songs they hear and as a result can get slightly ‘disorderly,’ as the NYPD has so delicately phrased it. Still, the Bloomberg administration is intent on ending nightlife as we know it, and unless the city gets genuinely heated and excited about this debate, the city that never sleeps will become the city that mildly naps.”

Trash attracted scores of people from every corner of the city. And so when word began to circulate on social media last Thursday morning that DJ Jess had passed, the outcry was massive.

“He was a force of positive energy,” says Gerard McNamee, the general manger of Webster Hall. “He supported and directed and was a shoulder for countless kids over his fifteen-year tour in New York City. This is so fucking terrible. The whole town, if you will, is upside-down over this. It’s ineffable.”

Though the time and cause of death remain unreleased to the public, DJ Jess’s friend and partner in Trash, Alex Malfunction, said Sunday was the last his friends heard from him. An avid user of social media to promote his events and music, DJ Jess’s final non-automated tweet was published on April 5 at 9:30 p.m. and read, “What’s this from? ‘Death is our business. Business is good.’ ”

DJ Jess migrated to New York from Los Angeles sometime in the early 2000s to study at New York University. Exact details of his early life are hazy — including his age — but this is exactly how DJ Jess preferred to present himself. While still new to New York, DJ Jess (who went by Jesse at this time) met Andy Shaw while both played in local bands — a Morrissey cover band, in Jesse’s case — and the two bonded over a mutual appreciation for music. In 2003, when a newly re-branded DJ Jess decided to begin hosting Trash Parties, he called upon Shaw and his company, Shaw Promotion, for assistance.

“He pretty much helped me launch my career. I had never done promotion in New York City and had no connections and I was high and dry. That’s when he called me up and said he just started a new party called Trash at Rififi and he needed help with promotion,” recalls Shaw. “The first thing I did was go to the Trash party. This was just when Trash first started, and when I was there I noticed the attendance was pretty low, but I recognized the potential right away — mostly because of Jess. There were a lot of parties in New York City regardless, but Jess was the star and I could tell right away. He was very charming, like a magnet. People gravitated towards Jess.”

Shaw worked with DJ Jess to attract the fresh younger crowds coming in off the streets from NYU, Columbia, and Parsons.

“I grew up in New York City, and every year in September, I walk around and see the new students in NYC for the first time. They’re overexcited and looking for something to do. I told Jess, ‘These are the kids we need to get. We need to give them a home,’ ” he says. “And that’s exactly what we did. Trash became exactly that. Everybody gives credit to Jess and Trash for being where they met their boyfriend, their fiancé, where they met their best friends, best memories, because it’s not just a party. It’s their first experience in NYC for a lot of people, and they associate Trash with New York City.”

Courtesy of Nate “Igor” Smith
DJ Jess

Included in this mix of nightlifers was Nate “Igor” Smith, who attended his first Trash Party on New Year’s Eve 2006. By that spring he was a regular.

“Jess just believed in the legacy of NYC nightlife and would really go out of his way to make everything as crazy and as fun as it could possibly be,” says Smith. “From the very first party I ever went to for Jess to the last, his attitude towards it was exactly the same. I feel like he just instilled this responsibility of ‘This is NYC nightlife and this is something more important than just getting drunk and fucking people.’ You really felt like you were part of something when you went to one of his parties.”

Smith had an interest in photography prior to meeting DJ Jess and credits him for launching his career, which is represented by his own photography blog, Driven by Boredom, and photos published by the Village Voice.

“I wouldn’t be a professional photographer if it wasn’t for Jess,” Smith says. “I remember when I first started doing nightlife, trying to get paid for party photography, which, you know, seems impossible, but Jess would hire people to host. And you’d get $100 and a bottle of vodka.”

Around three or four years ago, Anna Cecilia met DJ Jess and was soon inspired to DJ herself with Jess as her mentor.

“He took me under his wing and taught me how to DJ, eventually giving me a shot to DJ at the Trash Party,” she says. “He was always teaching me how to be better and giving me tips. He meant the world to me. He never just thought about himself; he would always think about everyone and wanted everyone to be happy. He would always say the show must go on. Nothing bad would stop him from doing what he loved to do.”

The Trash Parties came to an end on March 28, 2014, so that DJ Jess could turn his focus to producing his own music and remixes — but he never quit performing. In March, he returned to Webster Hall with his new event, Kill City Party. He released a handful of songs. The week of his passing, he debuted a remix of the Smashing Pumpkins’ “Bullet With Butterfly Wings.”

“I would go into the studio with him, in his apartment — he would always work on music in his apartment — and we would sit there and he’d ask, ‘Does this sound good?’ He’d produce different songs and sounds. At first his music started off as OK, but then it kept getting better and better. He was just starting to make his own music,” says Cecilia.

DJ Jess’s character prevails through the countless comments expressed on social media and in the testimony of friends and colleagues. He was an avid fan of raspberry vodka and it didn’t matter how bad the music was, he would still dance. He lived a few streets over from St. Marks in the East Village near the Taj Indian restaurant and loved his neighborhood. “To get Jess out of Manhattan and that [Village] area was like pulling teeth,” says Cecilia.

Smith refers to him “as much as a drama kid as you could possibly imagine. He’s like a Glee cast member but with a fucked-up New York City dark side.”

Webster Hall’s McNamee says DJ Jess “always welcomed the colorful kids, the misfits, the freaks, the clubs kids, the LGBT community.”

“I mean, he covered so much ground, Jess Marquis. When I first met him, you could tell by looking at him that he was an artist and he was also an entertainer. He could dance, sing, DJ, was fashionable, his energy was contagious — I don’t know what we’re going to do without him. He was irreplaceable.”

In the 2004 Cityzen.tv article (where DJ Jess was interviewed by Andy Shaw), it’s revealed that his initial start in NYC music and nightlife began with a personal ad in the Voice. It read, “Emotionally troubled, adorably absurd audiophile seeks someone to shoplift from H&M with, and to share massive music collection.”

Soon a quote follows, a statement that would certainly earn him a nod from his hero Morrissey.

“I don’t believe in love,” said DJ Jess. “There is only the memory of love, and the desire for.”

A memorial service for DJ Jess will be held at Webster Hall April 16 at 7 p.m.


Review: Title Fight Trades Urgency for Depth at Webster Hall – NEW YORK TIMES


Title Fight Shane Moran, left, and Ned Russin played songs from their new album, “Hyperview,” which is a shift from their previous album, during a sold-out show at Webster Hall on Friday night. Credit Chad Batka for The New York Times

Toward the end of Title Fight’s Friday night set at Webster Hall, Ned Russin, one of the band’s two singers, introduced “Rose of Sharon,” a song from the band’s new album, with a bit of hushed reverence.

“This song is about permanence,” he said. “This song is about everything.”

In a sense, it’s also about how to smooth out the rough edges of your past in hopes of making something more lasting. “Rose of Sharon” is one of the more elegiac songs on the impressive “Hyperview” (Anti-). That album is a marked shift from its predecessor, the excellently pummeling “Floral Green” (SideOneDummy), from 2012.

Once a forthright basher of a band, Title Fight has become deeper, more reliant on its emotions. As it has done so, it’s begun to play more loosely with its posthardcore and emo roots, making music that trades urgency for complexity.

The swaggering center of the new album, and of this show, was “Your Pain Is Mine Now,” oozing with shoegaze cool. During moments like this, Title Fight got knotty. But even at its most immersive, the band — Mr. Russin on bass; his twin brother, Ben, on drums; and on guitar, Jamie Rhoden (who also sings) and Shane Moran — manages a clarity of purpose.

The band Title Fight at Webster Hall on Friday night. Credit Chad Batka for The New York Times

During its “Hyperview” material, the band was contemplative and settled. But it didn’t abandon its old tensions, mixing in several songs from its last album, quick jabs sprinkled in amid the body work. From time to time, Mr. Russin would spring into the air, legs akimbo — posi jumps, they’re called — as a reminder of the rowdy energy on which the band first built its reputation.

Title Fight was playing middle in a three-band bill. The headliner was La Dispute, a straightforward band with a wider range of influences — at one point during its set, there were distinct, and unwelcome, shadows of Sublime. The more compelling and apt partner to Title Fight was the opener, the Hotelier. Preoccupied with raw-nerve feeling and storytelling, it’s a much more literal inheritor of emo tradition.

As punk, in its Warped Tour variant at least, has painted itself into metalcore and synthesizer-driven corners, emo is constantly being born and dying and being born again more or less in the shadows.

The Hotelier is thriving in these underfed spaces. Its 2014 album, “Home, Like Noplace Is There” (Tiny Engines), was exceptionally sharp, a tuneful blast of agony. Here, the singer Christian Holden was plaintive and empathetic while the band gave him ample room to breathe.

“We write songs about caring deeply for the people you love,” he said.

And then he got back to aching.


Brandon Flowers Debuts Triumphant New Songs at NYC Show – ROLLING STONE

The Killers frontman struts through cuts off ‘The Desired Effect’ and “covers” his old band at intimate solo gig

By Paula Mejia March 25, 2015

Brandon Flowers

Brandon Flowers played songs from his new solo album, ‘The Desired Effect,’ at New York’s Webster Hall.
Torey Mundkowsky

In what seems like a past life, four androgynous glam enthusiasts forged a synth-edelic gem of a debut, Hot Fuss, that swooned onto the charts and swept the group into arenas across the world. The Las Vegas band sang anthems of jealousy and Jenny, called themselves the Killers and ushered in a refreshing New Wave revival. At the center of it all was white coat-sporting frontman Brandon Flowers, who became famous for his onstage theatrics, lovelorn desert roars and fresh-shaved face. This was 2004, after all: Back then, the eyeliner ran thicker than the bass lines.

Eleven years and a handful of albums later, Flowers remains just as beguiling – even if there’s a little less gender-bending. Last night at New York’s Webster Hall, he admitted outright that “we’ve been coming here for 11 years, and I still get intimidated by this city,” but he commanded the crowd regardless, mixing a few old hits with new tracks from his forthcoming solo LP, The Desired Effect.

Red, mauve and peach lights – Sunset Strip shades – illuminated the venue as Flowers and his band opened with the new album’s punchy first track, “Dreams Come True.” From his first minute onstage, the singer played the part of a full-on entertainer, addressing the crowd with the politeness of a game show host and shimmying with the coy charisma of a Magic Mike stripper. The front row screamed as he unbuttoned his jacket during new single “Can’t Deny My Love,” as when he gripped his chest and dipped during early solo tracks “Crossfire” and “Magdalena.”

Flowers wears his influences (Echo and the Bunnymen, Depeche Mode) proudly on his lamé sleeves, and though the new songs are neither referential nor reverential, he couldn’t help but shout out one of his Eighties heroes halfway through the show. “Do you guys like Robert Palmer?” he asked before launching into a hell-raising cover of “Simply Irresistable.” “I’m not afraid to admit it.”

Accordingly, the set aim aimed for pop but remained grounded in the sturdy rock of a band led by drummer Darren Beckett. Two new backing vocalists, Erica Canales and Daniel Whiters, offered honeyed, Fleetwood Mac harmonies that nearly upstaged Flowers on new songs like “Dreams Come True,” and the album as whole seems to show the touch of Haim and Sky Ferreira producer Ariel Rechtsaid. Flowers described their collaboration as “in the spirit of conversation, contention and at long last, sweet contrition.” Whatever it is, it’s working.

Flowers can be a victim of his own passions, with his lyrics sometimes lingering toward the cliché. (How many more songs do we need about heads staying above water?) But his boyish charm, humility and unexpected bridges are tough to resist. “We’re going to play a few covers,” he at one point announced in his dusty voice. Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” seemed like an obvious choice. As did Stevie Nick’s “Edge of Seventeen,” which lingered over the earlier performance of “Can’t Deny My Love.” Instead, he played a couple of Killers tracks: at first a breathy, alt-country redux of “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine,” then later, to close the show, a take on “Mr. Brightside” that piled extra synths into the breakthrough hit. Visibly beaming, Flowers finished the song, walked offstage and waved, smiling like he meant it.


“Dreams Come True”
“Hard Enough”
“Jilted Lovers & Broken Hearts”
“Jenny Was a Friend of Mine”
“Read My Mind”
“Simply Irresistible”
“Swallow It”
“Digging Up the Heart”
“Can’t Deny My Love”

“Right Behind You”
“Only the Young”
“Mr. Brightside”


Modest Mouse rocks deep setlist at Webster Hall – Entertainment Weekly

by Christian Holub • @cmholub

Trying to catch Modest Mouse live can sometimes seem like a cat-and-mouse chase, and not just because of the band’s Virginia Woolf-referencing name. Even though new album Strangers To Ourselves is its first in eight years, Modest Mouse tours frequently, just with an erratic schedule. Rather than playing the festival circuit, they often book swaths of shows in clusters of states. You could live in a big media city like Chicago, for example, and go years without seeing the band—even as they stop in Kansas multiple times. You never know.

Even when you do catch them, a question remains: what version of the band you’ll get. Horror stories abound of frontman Isaac Brock showing up with two black eyes, or unable to remember his own lyrics, or with a burned-out voice. And one glance at setlist.fm makes it clear that Modest Mouse rarely, if ever, plays the same setlist twice. A ticket to a Modest Mouse show is both elusive and unpredictable, like a magic fortune cookie that could either bring you good luck or trap you in a horrifying Freaky Friday body switch.

Fortunately, the band’s show at Webster Hall Wednesday night (the first of a two-night booking, some proceeds of which are going to domestic violence charity Safe Horizon) featured them in excellent form. Brock’s voice sounded clear, and the acoustics were balanced—not always an easy task with a band whose songs occasionally require three guitarists, two drummers, and a violinist.

More importantly, the setlist was representative of Modest Mouse’s deep discography. With almost a dozen releases over two decades, each variously beloved by different types of fans, it’s obviously impossible for Modest Mouse to please everyone with a single set. Several audience members left audibly bummed about the exclusion of “The World at Large” and “Broke;” others probably missed “Trailer Trash” and “Ocean Breathes Salty.” Even so, nearly every album contributed to the show—even Brock’s one-off Ugly Casanova project, though obviously the focus was on Strangers To Ourselves.

The band kicked things off with the new album’s last track, “Of Course We Know,” a catchy slow burn whose crescendo fed right into the screaming “Black Cadillacs,” a highlight from the same album that gave us “Float On.” This opening salvo continued with the quintessential Modest Mouse song “3rd Planet,” a rumination on the universe amplified to arena volume by scores of fans shouting along to every word. The unpredictability of a Modest Mouse concert is worth it for the chance of seeing a song like that performed live.

There was plenty of screaming throughout the show, as anyone familiar with Brock’s eccentric brand of cult adoration would expect. As great as a front-row spot can be, it feels better in a way to spend a Modest Mouse show in the back, with the screaming drunks. This has always been a band meant for the stoner who mostly spews nonsense—but occasionally achieves greater insight than anyone.

At its best, Modest Mouse’s music pulls from Brock’s dark id without getting lost in it. Perhaps no song is no more representative of that balancing act than “King Rat,” a highlight from the 2009 B-side collection No One’s First and You’re Next that starts as dark vaudevillian mischief before devolving into total chaos. It was surprising to hear it played live, and less shocking to hear the band cut it off right at that crucial turning point. Some songs are too tough to pull off in real time; it’s the same reason Kendrick Lamar never raps all of “Rigamortis” at concerts. This abridged “King Rat” was followed by with “The Ground Walks, With Time in a Box,” easily the most energetic cut from Strangers To Ourselves, and a safer dose of controlled chaos.

Beloved a cult singer as he may be, Brock is no Thom Yorke, who spent many years excluding “Creep” from Radiohead sets. Modest Mouse did, in fact, play “Float On” on Wednesday. There’s a certain type of Modest Mouse fan who disowns this song; its optimism seems unearned compared to darkly introspective tracks like “Trailer Trash” and “3rd Planet.” Seeing Modest Mouse live, then, is a chance for these fans to confront the reality of “Float On,” and the fact that it is not an unabashed pop sellout so much as a really good version of a Modest Mouse song.

When the band left the stage after “Bury Me With It,” a bit of tension arose as to whether they would come back. After all, Modest Mouse fans are the type of crowd who don’t buy into the silly “encore” process at modern concerts—but Brock seems like the type of singer who might forgo an encore if he didn’t hear enough applause. All that worry for nothing; the band came back for a six-song encore that finished with “The Good Times Are Killing Me,” and stage lights twinkled along with the guitars.

Check out the entire setlist here:


Young Thug & Travis Scott Show Their Range at NYC’s Webster Hall: Live Review – BILLBOARD

By Elias Leight | March 13, 2015 1:20 PM EDT

The success of Young Thug and Travi$ Scott reflects two different approaches to climbing hip-hop’s ladder. Last year, Thug was one of several rappers who exploded from regional presence to national force in a matter of months, forcing big-name stars into a mad scramble to co-sign and remix. While Thug surged, Scott’s growth has been more controlled — he ingratiated himself with the establishment as a producer for Jay Z and Kanye; he puts out music in careful, precise doses. At New York City’s Webster Hall Thursday night (March 12), the two shared a bill — for now, different means leading to the same end.

What propelled Thug’s rapid rise? Mostly his singular delivery, which constantly forces writers to invent new modes of description. He emphasizes sound before “Blanguage” (Thug’s term), coming at the listener with an unusually high-pitched barrage of squirps, bleeps, and blehs. These mix into strange rhythms: rat-a-tat one moment, gluey the next. This rapper isn’t necessarily interested in comprehensibility or even rhyming. Still, radio can’t help but play him: a handful of Young Thug tracks are as vibrant as anything that came out last year in any genre. Due to his fire-in-every-direction-at-once approach, Thug often benefits from rock-solid interlocutors. Think, for example, of his top 20 Hot 100 hit “Lifestyle,” which the molasses-and-sandpaper-voiced Rich Homie Quan imbued with touching gravity.

Scott has also served as one of the collaborators keeping Thug in earth’s orbit. The two artist’s styles often contrast — while Thug puts out music the same way he raps, in a non-stop stream, Scott releases tunes sparingly: Owl Pharoah in 2013, Days Before Rodeo last year. But his musical choices can be daring — last year’s “Drugs You Should Try” offered an early take on the garbled-guitar trap-ballad sound that’s currently inspiring Kanye and Paul McCartney. Scott often pops up in unexpected places with pleasing results. He added a verse to Tinashe‘s last mixtape, Black Water; he was the only non-Lil-Wayne rapper to appear on Drake‘s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, where he made “Company” his own with a transfixing, other-worldly howl.

Though Scott hasn’t had much in the way of hits, he says that’s because he doesn’t care about singles — he’s playing a different game. In a 2013 interview with The Fader, he issued his manifesto: “Travi$ is not here to make number one rap songs. Those people get high off of making number one songs. I’m into making number one f—ing albums.”

He doesn’t have that number one album yet, but the crowd at Webster Hall consistently responded to his tracks, with the pile-driving beats in “Don’t Play,” “Drugs You Should Try,” and “Mamacita” compelling feverish movement. These frenetic moments play to Scott’s strengths as a performer — he moved in two directions at once, pogoing up and down and ping-ponging side to side. Spraying the front rows with beer and water and windmilling his arms, his energy met the audience’s and blasted upward.

But that’s only one aspect of Scott’s music: he also loves to filter and deform his voice in strange, mournful ways. When he moved to play some of his slower songs, people tended to lose interest. Similarly, when he brought out the rapper Wale at one point, the response was tepid. In contrast, when Scott performed his part of Drake’s “Company,” the crowd was happy to join him in unleashing full-throated wails. 

While Young Thug sounds more unhinged on recording, he played the even-keeled rapper at Webster Hall. Scott traversed most of the stage; Thug often stuck to the middle, limiting his dancing mostly to arm movements. (This was the second of two consecutive sold-out shows in the same night, which may have impacted his energy.) He compensated for his slightly reduced vigor with several outfit changes — switching into a poncho before “Givenchy” (a song from his Rich Gang: The Tour Pt. 1 mixtape with Birdman and Rich Homie Quan), and shedding layers after that to go shirtless.

Thug also doesn’t need as much exuberance in the live setting: he has the hits to fall back on. He paced them throughout the evening — the off-kilter “Stoner” early on, the more kinetic “Danny Glover” in the middle section, and the gooey “Lifestyle” towards the end. The last two songs are as strategic as they are visceral — Thug’s rapping barrels down the middle of the track and sticky melodies sneak in from the sides.

Since Scott got to bring out a guest, Thug did too — Birdman appeared to head-bob and smoke onstage during “Lifestyle.” This led to a strange Throwback Thursday ending, as the Cash Money records co-founder rapped a few verses from old hits and thanked everyone for supporting Thug and Scott. These two have quickly worked their way into rap’s upper echelon, but the old guard still had the last word.


Live Review: Feist and Labelmates Celebrate Cherrytree Records’ 10th Anniversary at Webster Hall (3/9) – CONSEQUENCE OF SOUND


Photography by Nick Karp

The evening prior to Cherrytree Records’ 10th anniversary, Sting cancelled his planned appearance due to the flu. Some in the crowd were disappointed, as if the only reason to go for the night was to see the former frontman for The Police perform, but there was far more to the night than any one star. The whole lineup proved to be more of a demo-disc than a longer game, each demo sparking in one way or another.

Label founder Martin Kierszenbaum (or “Marty,” as seemingly everyone called him) kicked off by MCing and introducing everyone who works at Cherrytree before bringing on the Last Bandoleros, who he dubbed a mixture of blues rock and early work from The Beatles. That may have set the bar too high: though they certainly mixed Tex-Mex, blues rock, and ’60s pop harmonies, the songs were more straightforward than anything that ever came out of the Lennon-McCartney machine.

The surprise of the night was the second act, Secret Someones. Fronted by three women, each controlling their instruments like it was a part of them, they traded vocals over music that sounded like the finest work from Marcy Playground, but with a touch of 2015 pop and tight-knit harmonies all the way through. (As a fan of “Poppies”, I mean this in the most complimentary and undated way.) At one point, the lead guitarist ended a solo using only her fretting hand while the keyboardist leaned over and smacked the strings, drenching the audience in feedback, and creating something that few acts can: a genuine moment. Their choir-like, angelic vocals made it clear: they were each songwriters in their own right, but together formed a greater unit. The fact that drummer Zach Jones seemed to cherish his role in the back only helped escalate their set. Secret Someones’ tour mates and recent Cherrytree signing Jukebox the Ghost then rocked out like an electro Billy Joel, garnering applause as EDM fans poured in.

Matthew Koma did only two songs after the earlier acts did four each. Considering Marty himself hyped Koma, it felt odd, but Koma’s acoustic performance helped shine a light on his vocal strength. Already known as “the voice of EDM,” his nasally pop-laced highs are well known, but he glowed most when he sang low, touching a certain luscious whisper that his songs yearn for.

The loudest moment wasn’t any beat Far East Movement dropped, nor the first ever live performance of “KTown Riot”, one of their more recent songs that toys with and samples the main beat and riff to M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” (itself a re-imagined sample of The Clash’s “Straight to Hell”). Louder than any beat was the first time they got Webster Hall to cheer “New York City”; their raps and freestyles wove the venue, the town, and Cherrytree Records into their rhymes organically.

The loss of Sting didn’t only mean missing out on the songs that he would have played on his own, but also the songs he had planned to play with the final two performers. Ivy Levan sprawled across the stage like a spider, but owned it like a queen; she admitted her final song was supposed to be a duet with Sting. In his stead, Marty played bass; the label chief didn’t phone it in, enjoying his time on stage without pretending Ivy wasn’t the star.

Feist performed a few songs, enchanting the crowd in a way few others can, before openly asking if anyone was bummed Sting couldn’t make it. After conjuring the crowd to admit that yes, Sting would’ve been nice, she confessed she learned a cover the night before on YouTube and asked for everyone else to lead the way through “Every Breath You Take”. Though she commented she didn’t like being caught on camera, she didn’t seem to have all the lyrics fully memorized and played the wrong part at several bits; noticing only those things would be a gigantic disservice to Feist. Every note that came out of her was genuine and soared amazingly, and every slipup was met with a laugh and a smile rather than frustration. She looked like a proud parent after a child’s lost soccer match every time her hand slipped to the wrong chord; she egged on the crowd to lead the way through its final moments. As she walked off, she asked not to post it online, but the truth is anyone who saw it knew they caught something special. For a moment in time, Webster Hall was a group of friends in a living room watching Feist cover The Police, casually with a smile, delivering a perfect imperfection.

Some may have got a refund when Sting canceled, but the show – which doubled as a benefit to VH1’s Save the Music Foundation – did a fine job crawling out of his shadow. The showcase captured Cherrytree’s decade in existence without pushing too hard; the label is odd in that it openly claims to be a musician-friendly major label – something that will always seem borderline impossible. The outpouring last night made it clear: their artists are still happy there, and the industry side is going as strong as ever.




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