A Little Taste Of The Open Arts Music Fest With Jen Awad, Kilo Kish And Nick Waterhouse
On Saturday, Glendale had a nice family-friendly street festival, the Open Arts Music Fest, with artists performing all day long and I managed to see the three last ones, two very familiar ones, Jen Awad and Nick Waterhouse and a newcomer (to me) Kilo Kish.
I have seen Jen Awad many times and she always puts on a fantastic show fueled with bottomless energy. The flamboyant petite woman and her amazing powerhouse had once again surrounded herself with an old school R&B orchestra, a killer horn section and back up singers. Starting her set with a Nancy Sinatra cover (‘These Boots Are Made For Walkin’’), she continued with familiar tunes and new songs, sang with that same powerful soul in the voice above timeless music. Of course, she did her famous ‘Love is Dead’ and plenty of other songs like ‘Thirsty’, with a combination of super dramatic keys and horns, and her great voice which has already drawn comparisons to the greatest soul singers, from Amy Winehouse to Etta James. She sings with an intense conviction and an infectious passion and without reinventing a beloved genre, she certainly brings new fire to songs that sound like instant classics. She exploded with an over-the-top-diva persona during the horn-driven ‘Basic Bitch’, looking like a mean queen of R&B, while giving a sweaty performance of a throwback genre which never gets old when it is performed with so much bravado and fire.
Kilo Kish couldn’t have been more different, although drama and action were still present. Her set was an intriguing blend of electronic, synth experimentation and rap told in half-whispers or moaning conversations, while she was elegantly dancing with abrupt moves throughout the stage. Her set had a very artsy side, mysterious and a bit inaccessible on a sonic level, like a new reinvention of Bjork maybe, or a dreamy nightmare of a beautiful cyborg. The music got all glitchy and electrified, with throbbing synths hit by drum machines and cold industrial beats, while other songs had weird meandrous pop melodies or sudden EDM false starts. She even covered Madonna and invited everyone to dance during her last song, but honestly, she was the only one that could do it, and, with her silver eye shadow and glittery outfit, she got truly spectacular. Interestingly, Kilo Kish was featured on recent tracks by Gorillaz and Childish Gambino, and one of her collaborators is no other than famous rapper Vince Staples.
The night was definitively eclectic as Nick Waterhouse followed with his popular 50s throwback, surrounded by a big band pumped up by saxophones and pure rockabilly energy. With his vague Buddy Holly look, Nick Waterhouse carries a communicative passion for retro sound, pre-rock & roll invasion and his vintage brand of rhythm & blues, soul, swing, doo-wop, and jazz comes so close to 50-60’s classics, that they would fool anyone. Some sax-injected songs with their slick rhythm section could make you think about a Cab Calloway song, while the keyboard and the backup singer added an almost Ray Charles dimension at times. Some may find this perfectly executed R&B too close to the original, but the dynamism on stage is always real and the band captures the American bandstand golden age like nobody else. The Open Arts Music Fest is definitively worth checking out next year.