“I feel like people have forgotten how to put on a show,” Angelikah Fahray told me on the phone, filling me in about what was going to happen Saturday. “The Michael Jacksons and Princes, people like Destiny’s Child, the Tina Turners, they really put on a show and had the band and the dancers and the story and the outfits and the hair and makeup. Now you just throw on a track and go on stage and not really do much and still, I guess, impress people.”
So when the hot young R&B/jazz singer was looking to cook up a proposal for SPACE’s Sonic Visions fund, which does targeted grants to multimedia-oriented musicians, Fahray figured she’d get a document of the kind of show she’d like to see more often: in the round, people looking sharp (including the audience), six-piece band, marble columns framing her at the mic. Such was SPACE on Saturday night, captured by Navadise Media, DSLRs on tripods ringing the floor in front of the stage, a dude with a gimbal weaving in and around Fahray as her So Serious band played in a semicircle behind her.
The irony, of course, is that the experience of watching a live-concert film get made doesn’t make for the greatest show. It’s hard not to be distracted by all of the glowing screens on the backs of the camera, of the guy blocking your view as he circles the stage, and there’s a ripple of nervousness that’s understandable when you try to capture seven songs in front of 100 people and hope you nail it.
“This is a vibe,” a woman said to her friend, behind me. They were banged out in sharp white jackets and black pants, following the requested dress code, and not the only ones. Fahray matched them but for a bright red tie tucked into the vest of her black jumpsuit, a charismatic force that reminded me a little bit of Janelle Monae at South by Southwest. But where Monae went big, Fahray simmered, alternately cooing and belting over a smooth rhythm section led by DJ Matt Perry on an MPC player and laptop, who tapped out an opening bassline to “Come See My World.”
But then, minor disaster. Fahray’s mic started cutting out, first with staticky crunches from the speakers, then into silence. The band admirably rolled on, guitarist Jordan Bicki cycling through riffs over a groove, while Mesa Schubeck served up atmospheric organ, but Fahray gave the cut-it signal, waving her hand across her throat. What was the point? It wasn’t quite “slaying the dragon,” that musician’s term for having to restart a song because you’d fucked it up, but it was close. That never feels good.
The crowd was more than forgiving, though, shouting out encouragement, the consciousness of being part of the production making them feel the disappointment acutely and rooting hard for Angelikah to nail it.
“In my coffin, I’m a fool for you,” she opened the next piece, Perry pulling off a full-drum-kit sound loud in the mix, providing a necessary biting snare for the jazz style. “I want to be your sentimental, be your queen.” In her stocking feet she had the crowd in her hands. She got them clapping, too — always dangerous, and they did try to drag the song slower. They moved into a skittering beat, though, a little bit weird, before a straight piano sound grounded things: “Play me a little bit of something new.” Fahray toyed with her delivery, coy, leaning into some reverb.
Too soon, it was time to introduce the band and a last song, “Rushin’,” but then she sorta killed it two minutes in, strumming her electric guitar tunelessly and saying, “that was Rushin’,” a bit sheepishly.
Gamely, Fahray returned for an encore, just her and an electric to sing “Pegasus,” one of two songs she has online, and then back came the band for “Getaway,” which seemed to have the catchiest chorus of the night before Fahray was again betrayed by her mic. She even went back to grab backup singer (and sister) Afline Nathalie’s mic, aggressively upping her vocals in frustration in a way that really showed off her pipes, before calling it a night.
“I’ll be at the merch table,” she said. “Come take pictures with me.”
It was an ambitious plan. Just ask Led Zeppelin how hard it is to film a great performance. To do it right, you’d probably tape a week of shows and hope you got five songs. But there’s no doubting people are going to want a way to get more of Fahray. Let’s hope they got something good.
Sam Pfeifle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SPACE continues their Sonic Visions shows with Kafari and Dr. Scribbz on Jan. 26, Jimmy Dority on Jan. 27, and An Anderson and Inventing Trees, Jan. 28. Find more at https://space538.org/reader/sonic-visions-2022
2 Weeks, 5 Songs
Love by Numb3rs – “7 O’Clock News/Silent Night”| Dan Connor and Anna Lombard get a little bit silly in the video, though they’ve done a somber rendition of the Christmas classic, introducing news readings overtop a la Simon and Garfunkel.
An Overnight Low – “Rankin/Bass” | You know Rankin/Bass, right? The guys who did the weird animation for “Rudolph” and “Little Drummer Boy”? Well, regardless, this is a new rock-ballad Christmas song, which means you need to check it out immediately.
Circus-P – “Misery Loves Company” | Digital vocalist and mysterious Mainer Circus-P is back with five more songs dropping as part of the “Key” EP on Dec. 16. As original emo-punk goes, this ain’t bad.
Dustin Saucier – “Even There” | Have things changed now he’s gotten a new kidney? Not hardly. Dustin’s still filling acoustic guitar songs with emotions, calling Bright Eyes and Colin Meloy to mind.
Spacetooth – “Grey Morning” | This is the opening track from the 16-song “That Ship Has Sailed,” an all-instrumental beat tape by the producer often known as Dynamo-P. It’ll be hard to listen and not want to lay down vocals.