Bones Owens, Avid Dancer, Jen Awad, Vōx At It’s A School Night, Monday August 6th 2018
Last Monday, School Night had once again a lineup offering a lot of diversity, four really different artists playing inside the intimate Bardot venue, for another full night of surprises and familiar faces, with BONES OWENS, Avid Dancer, Jen Awad, and vōx
Bones Owens, a musician from Nashville, immediately sounded like the white version of Los Angeles’ Hanni el Khatib. Wearing white pants, a white tee and playing a white guitar with a white amp, his sound was raw and distorted, the tone was rebellious and the tempo was stomp-y, building up this sort of outlaw country that makes the guitar fight against the amp for a few good minutes. Caleb ‘Bones’ Owens looked like a war hero, covered with tattoos but really at ease while playing a bluesy loudness, messing up with his blonde hair, freshly cut by his wife, as he told us. He recently played guitar on a No1 hit, ‘The Champion’, sang by Carrie Underwood and Ludacris, but what he served us at A School Night, had nothing to do with this overproduced pop anthem… He has in fact collaborated with an impressive range of artists across many different genres, as he was known as the longtime guitarist and collaborator for rapper YelaWolf. However, his solo work is the ‘most American thing’ ever, with an EP (‘Make Me No King‘) released last year, and a badass new single ‘Keep It Close’.
Avid Dancer’s set was all sweetness and dreamy magic. Sitting behind his drumset, songwriter Jacob Dillan Summers was humbly singing with a Neil Young falsetto, and his songs exalted the sound of a summer in the ‘70s. He has recently released his second album, ‘Sharaya’, named after his wife, so you can imagine what the songs are about: love and love, delivered from the heart with pretty and catchy choruses and a real sweetness, that were meant to melt people’s heart. During his short set, he was surrounded by a large ensemble of musicians, quietly playing and harmonizing with him, while they managed to bring in mind Fleetwood Mac or the sweetness of a Shins song, with melodies that sounded like a breeze over Beachwood canyon, where he recorded his album. If hooks were all over the place, the songs were also very dance-y and made several pretty girls move along.
I have seen and reviewed Jen Awad too many times by now (I saw her very recently at the Troubadour), but there’s no such thing that too many times when the energy is propelled to the ceiling by a flamboyant petite woman gifted by an amazing powerhouse and surrounded by an old school R&B orchestra with a killer horn section and plenty of back up singers. Jen Awad, with her recently released EP ‘Love is Dead’, is bringing back the soul-to blow-up-the-rooftop genre with a bang, and an insane amount of passion and conviction. Suddenly, the crowd became very female, as usual, since Jen is certainly a woman-empowering artist with songs like ‘Thirsty’, ‘Break a Man’ and ‘Basic Bitch’, and a new one that may be called ‘High Expectation’. This over-the-top diva, who has been compared to the greatest from Amy Winehouse to Etta James, is also a successful designer (Kali Uchis is a client) and she knows how to throw up a party, a dance party, as Bardot almost exploded with her infectious funky dancefloor, ‘Shackle Up’.
The ambiance calmed down with Vox, a beautifully dark solo act led by a white and sad bride hiding her face behind a mousseline veil. Her performance was vulnerable, melancholic and a bit gothic, with minimal beats and austere musical accompaniment, as she was occasionally paying a keyboard, and was backed up by recorded tapes. She has described her songs as a way to be ‘coping with anxiety and discovering power within herself’, while the tension was coming from her fragile vocals, which could become very powerful when she was repeating as a mantra ‘it’s the only time I’d like to disappear’… She wanted to disappear indeed, but her translucent face behind the veil was the most haunting vision of the evening. You could not have had a more complete change of pace, compared to Jen Awad’s all-fired-up set and unleashed soulful fury, she was a calm body of water who was holding everything inside that veil. The two women looked like the Yin and the Yang of music and the best examples how people manage to express themselves very differently through music.