I've been wanting to see Janelle Monae live for a long time now and thanks to her Eephus tour to promote her Wondaland Records artists, I got to fulfill that dream for free.
Saturday night at the Howard Theater, an amazing show took place. Obviously Janelle Monae was amazing. But not knowing much about the other artists, I didn't know what was in store. I have to say, I really liked pretty much every single one of the acts, so I've decided to write about each here.
One of the things that I liked best about the show was that it wasn't your usual "this band, then this band, then this band." Artists (Monae included) came on for a song or two then left, then came back later or sang with one of the other artists for a song or two. It was formatted much more like a variety show than a traditional concert. Although I think that's the way many of Wondaland's songs are being released, as well - as collaborations mixing and matching all the artists.
Since I'm sure you're familiar with Janelle Monae (and if not, shame on you), let's start with Jidenna. Jidenna's single Classic Man is the first release from Monae's Wondaland records. He's suave and debonair in an old-school way: always dressed in a three-piece suit with a tie, pocket square, pocket watch and even a cane (which is clearly for style and not function). His charisma is off the charts. And oh. so. fine. He hails from Brooklyn and is apparently the son of a Nigerian chief and an American anthropologist - as if he wasn't already interesting enough.
Deep Cotton is the duo of Nate ‘Rocket’ Wonder and Chuck Lightning. Their sound seemingly fuses practically every genre imaginable: from jangly rock guitars with punk-style vocals to soulful falsetto with a funky beat, they shift back and forth across genres as if genres were a thing that never existed to begin with. They were great performers too, very high energy and constantly dancing all over the stage.
Roman GianArthur has an awesome 6-pack. It was hard for me to concentrate on his music with his jacket open to his chiseled torso. Kidding. Mostly ;-) His music fell much more cleanly into the R&B category than the others did, and that's not generally my genre of preference, but it was still totally enjoyable. And while his songs might not be revolutionary, he is definitely insanely talented, both as a singer and a guitarist.
Janelle Monae has put together quite the roster. The concert finished up with all the artists coming on stage together to perform Hell You Talm Bout, as a call to African Americans to be on the front lines speaking up about police brutality which was an intense, emotion-filled end to an amazing show. Here's a video: