Kaki King on the Art of Multimedia Performance


By: Jimmy Leslie 

November 27, 2017

With her multimedia theatre piece The Neck Is a Bridge to the Body—as well as her new Live at Berklee CD that features a 12-piece chamber orchestra—Kaki King continues to push the creative envelope of guitar artistry technically, sonically, and visually. When GP last interviewed King for the April 2014 issue, her singer-songwriter and electric-band phases had reached their conclusions, and she was once again focused on her forte—transcendent solo-acoustic performances.

But there was a twist in the works.

King soon unveiled her bold, new vision for the stage: The guitar itself would become a screen for projected visuals, as well as the centerpiece of a mythic creation story. The Neck Is a Bridge to the Body is stunning if you can see it performed live, but the 2015 soundtrack recording [Short Stuff Records]—produced by D. James Goodwin, who did such fine work on King’s Glow in 2012—is a wonder, as well. The story line unfolds with abstract ideas laced in lush delays and reverbs, but the guitar highlights intensify as the musical narrative progresses—such as the furious arpeggios of “Trying to Speak” and the ethereal beauty and clever techniques of “The Surface Changes.” King was definitely onto something, as insatiable demand has prompted her to continue performing The Neck Is a Bridge to the Body on tour.

Recorded this past April at Berklee College of Music’s The Red Room at Café 939 in Boston, Live at Berklee consists almost entirely of King’s solo-acoustic pieces reimagined with string and woodwind arrangements—some provided by Berklee students Takuma Matsui and Shereen Cheong, some by Devotchka’s Tom Hagerman, and some by King herself. Working with the Porta Girevole Chamber Orchestra on the project—as conducted by student Gabriela Sofia Gomez Estevez—meant that the album has a bit less of a guitar focus, but that doesn’t mean King abandoned her formidable chops. In fact, the live video for the concert’s showstopper, “Magazine,” is clear evidence that King—voted Best Overall Acoustic Guitarist by GP readers in 2013—is playing better than ever.


The Neck is a Bridge to the Body is a crafty title. What you were thinking about when you came up with it?

The question on my mind at the time was, “Who is controlling who?” Was I really controlling what I was playing on the guitar, or was the guitar leading me? The title anthropomorphizes the guitar, and it reminds us that we’ve named parts of the guitar after our own bodies—which is interesting, even though I left out the headstock [laughs]. The title also signifies the personal and physical connection that guitar players and luthiers have to the instrument, and it expresses to the audience what players already understand—that the guitar has a kind of sentience.

How does the show flow?

It’s intentionally a slow burn from the start. Once I had proof that projection mapping on the guitar worked affordably—and that the system could be portable—I knew I could build a show. [Editor’s Note: Projection mapping is typically defined as the projection of an image on a non-white or non-flat surface, but, basically, it can mean using everyday video projectors to display images on three-dimension objects—like a car or a guitar—instead of screens.] But I still needed a framework on which to hang things, so I wrote a script. I’m not a storywriter, and the creation story is the most basic tale to tell, so I went with that. It’s not obvious, but the arc of the show is very much one of creation and development. Things become increasingly complex until the hero—the guitar—is fully formed and realized. Then, it goes on a hero’s journey telling the story of its life, its deconstruction, and a kind of rising from the ashes at the end. I used very basic tropes to inspire visuals and music that are ultimately pretty trippy.

How would you describe the look of the show, and how does your signature Ovation Adamas acoustic—which you had the company paint completely white for the production—figure into the overall visual context?

The guitar itself looks otherworldly. Projection mapping is a very simple process, but it looks gorgeous, and it does a lot to carry the show. There are a variety of visually captivating things happening that you can look at three ways. There’s the take-it-all-in approach where you see the guitar, the rear screen, and myself as one collective item. Then, there’s the comparison between the rear screen and the guitar. Or, you can just watch me play. I improvise a lot using the guitar to control audio-reactive visuals in many ways. For example, I can play a certain note to trigger a visual clip in which a spiral appears. That alone is really cool, but there’s a lot more packed into the show—including animation, abstract film, and film narrative.

How does the projector work?

I use what’s called a “short-throw projector.” It’s common in classrooms, because it can be mounted just a few feet away at such a steep angle so that it doesn’t project on the educator, or, in my case, the performer. As a result, my hands don’t create many shadows on the guitar, and that adds to the almost unreal nature of how the projection mapping looks on the guitar as I play.

Was it difficult to hone in the images that are projected on the guitar without having them bleed onto the rear screen or other spots on stage?

We used a program called MadMapper to create a spatial scan. Essentially, you put a webcam right next to your projector lens. Then, you run MadMapper through the projector. The projector spits out a couple minutes of horizontal and parallel lines that get smaller and smaller, and your webcam captures what it sees in the room. So, the projector projects the images, and the webcam sees what they are being projected on. You end up with a spatial scan of everything in front of the projector—which in our case is the guitar. We put that rendering into Photoshop, cut out around the guitar, and put that back into MadMapper programmed to only throw light in that cutout region. You might have to do a bit of editing if you find things such as light leaking in places other than the guitar body, but that’s fundamentally how we got the images to display on the guitar itself.

How do you control all of the visuals?

I split the signal from my Adamas into a line for my video engineer, and another line goes to my own computer. We both use Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 interfaces, because they are simple and strong. You don’t need any more firepower. He uses his signal to set parameters in a program called Resolume Arena Media Server. The larger the amplitude of the signal, the brighter the image exposure will be. For instance, when I play percussion on the guitar, the images will brighten or soften based on how hard I tap the surface. The other way we control Resolume is via MIDI. I don’t need a MIDI pickup because I use a program called MIDI Guitar by Jam Origin that works so well, it’s almost shocking. I use that to translate my guitar signal into MIDI notes that we program to do certain things in Resolume, such as trigger a spiral image, or make a color wash appear. I can trigger up to seven video clips simultaneously—meaning I can play seven notes, and seven spirals will appear. It’s magical. There is other times in the show where my video engineer manipulating images that I trigger, rather than me controlling the images myself. So the visual imagery is often a back and forth process between the two of us.

How do you manage your guitar tones during the production?

I toured the first year or so with a very well put together pedalboard, but now I use Logic MainStage to generate all my sounds. I didn’t want to drag around a 50-pound pedalboard when the show went overseas. The multimedia presentation is also a different kind of show than a typical musical performance. It’s a lot quieter and subtler, so a pedalboard with blinking lights and buttons clacking on and off would be very distracting—especially since I’m being a character in the show. All I have in front of me now is a Roland EV-5 expression pedal connected to a Logidy UMI3 Parametric USB MIDI foot controller that I use to scroll through patches, and I map the expression pedal to various parameters. The MainStage system has been a godsend, because it’s much lighter and more reliable.

Are you happy with the software-generated tones?

I’m so happy! But I did love that pedalboard, as well, so I did my best to copy the sounds as close as I could by ear. I have an ever-evolving set of plug-ins, and the programmability allows me to get super specific about controlling delays, reverbs, and equalization. Also, if a certain patch gives me trouble in a given venue, I simply open up the plug-in and fix it right there on the spot. I was nervous about going to a computer-based system, but it has been so helpful that I can never look back.

What tuning challenges are specific to The Neck Is a Bridge to the Body?

I have just the one “albino” Adamas, and I didn’t want to be constantly retuning it for the show, so I only use two tunings. The first half of the production is in open D minor. [Low to high—DADFAD]. For the second half, I switch to CGDDAD. Even with just two tunings, I didn’t want the audience to notice, so there’s a special video built into the show that lasts exactly the amount of time I need to retune.

Would you say your initial vision for The Neck Is a Bridge to the Body stemmed from considering a simple thing: “How can I make my show more visual interesting?”


All performers should ask themselves that same basic question. You’ve certainly taken your production values pretty far, but are there simpler and more affordable options guitarists could investigate if they want to enhance their visuals?

The cheapest way possible is to check in with the venue to see what’s available. If there’s not a designated light technician, usually the sound engineer has some control over stage lighting. Try to figure out something people haven’t seen there before. Perhaps go all red or all blue. Basically, ask whoever can push those lighting buttons to give you some options, and put some in some artistic thought.

The next most affordable option—and something you can control yourself—is having a lighting system on a dimmer or fader. There are tons of products available with the advancement of LED technology especially at holiday time—and you can find amazing deals right after Christmas. When I started to seriously research lighting, I was shocked by how much stuff was out there, from programmable LED strips to little lights you can hook up to a battery pack mounted inside your guitar.

The main thing to consider is, “What will enhance my performance, versus what might distract from it?” For example, I used to avoid all color. The only lighting I wanted onstage was stark white. My idea was that I’m under a microscope, and the audience is watching me play in a super-detailed way. Honestly, that was a little brutal, but I would definitely recommend keeping things simple. The last thing you want to do is build a complex system that makes your life difficult when you’re just trying to play some tunes.

What was the concept for Live at Berklee?

The whole project was ambitious, and Tony Brown at Berklee deserves a lot of credit for making the vision happen. The idea was to breathe new life into old material by re-orchestrating it, and having students play.

What were some of the technical challenges?

There wasn’t a lot of separation or isolation of the guitar mics. We favored my pickup sound in the mix more than I would have preferred, but the whole idea was to capture the show live with just two tries. My key ingredient was a well-trained guitar tech. Sir—his name is actually “Sir”—came to a lot of rehearsals with me. We had to pow wow a lot about guitars and tunings to figure out the best way to make the set flow.

How many guitars did you use?

I had my Adamas, a great Morris acoustic made in Japan, a Taylor dreadnought that my dad gave me, a Veillette Gryphon High 12, and a couple of electric guitars, including a semi-hollow Hamer Newport. I had several of them made when Hamer was still around. It’s sad that Hamer seems to be getting lost to history, because they made amazing guitars.

What amp did you use for the Newport?

It was a Carr Mercury—which is a great low-wattage amp. I had borrowed one from a friend, and I fell in love with it so much as a recording amp that I had get my own when he asked for it back.

How much did you use the second guitar player, Aida De Moya?

Just for one riff [laughs]. My part on “So Much For So Little” was very demanding, so she pinch-hit for a guitar melody. I didn’t realize that I wanted another guitar player until I needed one, and then I realized I didn’t need another guitar player for anything else.

“Magazine” is a fine example of a tuning with adjacent unison strings [tuned a half step down from C, G, D, G, G, D] that can sound like more than one guitarist is playing.

Any time you do rapid-fire fingerpicking with two strings that are either an octave apart or in unison it catches the ear. You hear a note, and then the same note again, but you’re not supposed to, because that note is already ringing. “What?” It simply doesn’t sound normal—even to most guitar players. “Magazine” has been around for more than a dozen years now, and it’s still fun to play in that tuning.

Is it a challenge to do the serious fingerpicking on the intro to “Magazine”?

The conditions have to be right. I have to be warmed up bodily, and the guitar has to be warmed up, too. I can’t do “Magazine” in a cold room. It has to be above 72 degrees.

Can you describe the way you group those arpreggiated clusters in your mind, and how you work your plucking hand to execute them?

They come across as triplets—although I think of them in groups of six as I pluck up and down the strings. Thumb is one, index finger is two, middle finger is three, ring finger is four, middle finger is five, and index finger is six. That would be the end of one phrase in my mind, and then I switch to the next one.

Was it difficult working with the chamber orchestra for Live at Berklee?

Ultimately, you listen to what is being played at rehearsal, and you have a conversation. No one looks at the notes on the page and says, “I’m simply going to play it the way it’s written.” Even the violinists and second violinists were having conversations about splitting up who was going to bow up, and who was going to bow down to make the phrases blend.

But, having said that, when I started writing and touring with the ETHEL string quartet a few years ago, I would get way stressed out about having the notation perfectly in place, and I needed it to all be in Italian. I figured I needed to have bow markings, and all this stuff that I didn’t know anything about. As it turned out, the best way is to use plain English to describe what you want as specifically as you can. You see, string players—especially the young ones these days—are being trained to understand the whims of people orchestrating weird stuff. They’re used to people saying, “I want this to sound like seagulls,” or “I want that to sound crunchy.” Editing can happen in the room, as well. You can delete a couple of measures. You can see if the bassoon part you wrote isn’t allowing the person to breathe, and you can take a note out. Players are actually looking for your input. Working with orchestral instruments is very much like being in a band, or figuring out a song with any group of people.

You’re still on a remarkable run touring with The Neck Is a Bridge to the Body. Are you surprised by its longevity?

My mind is boggled. When I first put it together in 2014, the venues were rock and jazz clubs. The curiosity around it has since extended into the world of performing arts centers. It has become more of a theatrical presentation than just a musical piece. I’d never done theater, so it’s interesting to observe that a successful show can have a longer lifespan than a typical record and touring cycle. I’ll continue to do “The Neck” as long as people want to see it.

Where do you plan to go with the multimedia concept in the future?

My goal is to develop a new show, but this is a whole new world. It’s not like writing songs and making a record. Working with multiple forms of media is an even more time-consuming process. I definitely have irons in the fire for several different concepts of even bigger, more interesting, similarly-based shows, but they require ten times the amount of research, development, rehearsal, and funding.

Backed by an orchestra, Kaki King shape shifts yet again on ‘Live at Berklee’


By: Mike Mettler

September 22, 2017

If there’s one thing you can predict about the iconoclastic avant-guitarist Kaki King, it’s that the only thing you expect her to do next is that she’ll do the unexpected, every time.

Case in point: Kaki’s 2016 The Neck Is a Bridge to the Body project, a boundary-pushing multimedia extravaganza that utilized her signature acoustic guitar as a projection-mapped A/V device to explore the nexus where haunting soundscapes and transformative visual skins meet.

So how does one follow-up something as badass as that? Why, you go to Berklee, sit down with the Porta Girevole Chamber Orchestra at The Red Room @ Café 939, and perform eleven of your most interesting songs in creatively revised or new arrangements — of course.

Fittingly, the resulting release, Live at Berklee, is available today via Birncore, albeit only in digital download form (for now). “Will we do physical copies on CD or vinyl? I don’t know,” King admitted to Digital Trends. “That stuff is expensive! Since I’m not actually going to be touring this show that much, we’ll probably hold off on a physical release. Maybe we’ll have a limited release of CDs, but vinyl? Well, you know — vinyl’s heavy, man! If this album had turned into its own tour, I definitely would have made vinyl for it. Since it’s more of a Berklee-managed project, I’m letting them set the tone, and I’m following their lead.”

Digital Trends called King right before she conducted a soundcheck for one of her own solo shows to discuss the philosophy behind Live at Berklee, how to bring classical performance and composition into the modern era, and the ways to keep evolving as an artist.

Digital Trends: I know you and the chamber orchestra worked through a few rehearsals together before you cut the album live back on April 21. Did those rehearsals give you a comfort level for a recorded performance that could have been a “no mistakes allowed” kind of thing?

Kaki King: Well, you know, there are always going to be mistakes. It’s just a matter of, “How bad are they?” (chuckles)

Well, I’d rather hear real players playing, rather than have live recordings cleaned up or Auto-Tuned past the point of feel.

In the case of this record, you’re definitely hearing all of us pretty much unedited.

Good. I prefer that, because I want to get into the character and identity of the players, especially someone like yourself who’s morphed and transformed over the years. The perfect example of that is this Berkleeversion of Magazine, a song that’s been in your repertoire for many years. [The studio version of Magazine is on her 2004 album, Legs to Make Us Longer.] As the song’s composer, what was your thought process as to how you’d bring that song forward into 2017?

I think the version I played at Berklee had been evolved over the years of playing it live. This particular arrangement [Kaki plays some of the song’s signature riffs over the phone] was done by Tom Hagerman, who did six of the arrangements on the record.

And it was quite the barnstorm, I must say. It was a thrilling piece to play. The conductor [Kari Juusela] was trying to keep up with me, I was trying to keep up with the conductor, and everyone was trying to keep up with each other! But it was definitely very satisfying when we got all those “hits” together. [Kaki mouths Magazine’s most dramatic surges for emphasis.]

I have to say, I’m really enjoying comparing and contrasting the differences in the sound design of The Neck Is a Bridge to the Body with that of Live at Berklee.

Cool! Moving forward, as I continue in this world of performing arts and multimedia, no matter what, my own personal sound design has to continue to grow and become more interesting.

And live, it’s always difficult when you’re on the performance side to witness what the audience is experiencing. I mean, there’s no substitute for me. I can’t ask another Kaki King to get up there and play my parts while I go out in the audience. (both chuckle)

Right. We haven’t perfected Kaki cloning as of yet.

(laughs) We haven’t gotten to that level of advancement yet. But as I continue to work with different types of media and experience the world a lot more, it shows that with amazing sound design, you don’t even know how good it is — like how the subwoofers are being used to push you physically other than aurally. All kinds of amazing things happen. I’m looking forward to getting into that more, actually.

I can see that. You’ve said you view the guitar itself as a “shape shifter,” but I also see you as a shape shifter. We don’t get the same thing from you each time around.

Oh, that is always my goal — but maybe it’s just because I get bored so easily.


But that’s good. I think your specific audience basically expects you to do something different.

They do, and I’m really grateful for that. I’m really grateful that people are willing to go along with my whims.

I think it’s good to have an audience that expects something new each time. It’s challenging, but it’s what I truly want to be doing for the rest of my career. I mean, I love playing the old tunes, and Berklee was a way of changing them up a bit, and push the boundaries.

You’re literally swinging for the Fences, to borrow another title. Speaking of that song, did you play off of the orchestra in the moment there, or was it more predetermined?

In terms of the Berklee record, it was all predetermined. As it was intended to be a live show, we had to try as hard as we could to nail the performances and get the notes right, to be honest with you — which everyone did, and they did a great job. But this record would have never happened in a studio, you know? Just doing old material with strings is boring.

Did you always know you would be sitting at stage right, or on the left, from the viewing audience’s POV?

Oh no, no! Berklee is a very professional organization, but when it comes to production, you just don’t really know beforehand. We didn’t know exactly what the dimensions of the room were, or exactly how the engineers wanted to record it until we got into the space for the first time. We had never rehearsed on that stage before, and they put me stage right because… (slight pause) well, that’s the place they had their microphones, probably! (laughs)

But also, with you being a right-handed player, you’d be more inclined to be looking left and towards the orchestra as you play.

That is true. If I had been on stage left, I would have requested to have been moved to the right, so that I could see the conductor.

Now that you have this taste of it, would you be inclined to do more orchestral shows like this live in the future?

Oh yeah! Yeah, totally. I’ve already done a couple of tours with a string quartet called Ethel, and I’ve done some basic string arrangements for records I’ve produced, and for my own records.

At some point, it would be really amazing to do this — and this is not totally Kaki’s ideal bucket list world (chuckles) — but I’d love to have a live ensemble with a multimedia production. I could combine the two things I’ve worked on in the past few years that have been the most new, and the most challenging for me — and the most rewarding.

The thing about modern classical music, and people playing music on classical instruments, is they all have a very huge challenge in front of them. Their audiences are literally headed into nursing homes. The modern audience is not satisfied with Mozart and Bach — even though I find it hard to believe that’s something you can’t be satisfied with! (chuckles)

People are really hungry for contemporary music, and there’s a renaissance of contemporary composers and ensembles, and people who are familiar with that language of music. Even in the most uptight of conservatories, they know their students are going to have to graduate by playing something John Cage wrote, or something Bryce Dessner or Nico Muhly just wrote — artists like them who are saying, “OK, we’re still writing on classical instruments, but we’re thinking outside the box — and we need you to be able to interpret this music, because this is the future.”

Since vinyl isn’t currently an option for Live at Berklee, I imagine you’re cool with listeners streaming it as well as downloading it.

Oh, I knew long, long ago that you can’t defeat the machine. I remember a lot of people going, “No, we’re going to make a lawsuit, and have a musician’s coalition against downloading.” And I said, “Listen — you can’t stand in the way of a cultural change that’s so great that literally every corner of the world will be taking part in it.” You can’t.

I don’t want my intellectual property to be undervalued, and I would like to feel I’m getting what I deserve as an artist, but things shifted. They changed. They just changed way too fast for certain people.

Me, I was like, “OK, cool.” But I would be standing there after a show where people would buy a CD from me, and literally in front of me, someone else would go, “Why don’t we buy just one, and then I’ll make you a copy?” This would be in the early 2000s. I would be like, “Ahhhhhh!” and would put my hands over my ears and go, “La-la-la-la, I can’t hear you saying this illegal shit right now!”

And that’s why the price of CDs at merch tables went up from $10 to $20, so artists could cover that two-for-one thing…

Right? And then Radiohead released In Rainbows for free [in 2007], and music suddenly cost zero. So, rather than trying to worry about that, fret about that, and stand in the way of it — I just got creative. I said, “I’m going to make my living from live performance. That’s where the money’s going to come from.”

You can’t sell that live experience, and you can’t copy that. Watching it on YouTube is not going to be the same thing. People are going to want to come out of their house, sit in a seat, and look at something beautiful and hear something amazing. That’s the shift.

I also like seeing how material from an artist evolves over the amount of time you spend on the road, like how Magazine continues to change the more you play it.

Sometimes we don’t even have a choice in the matter. The music does what it wants to do.

I often say the studio version of a song is always the snapshot of the moment you finished it.

That is exactly what I say! You took the words right out of my mouth, precisely. I just call it, “I took a photograph of it that day.” And it continues to grow, always.

Damn Tall Buildings rocked Chevalier’s final OnStage! Concert

Max Capistran, Sasha Dubyk of Damn Tall Buildings

Max Capistran, Sasha Dubyk of Damn Tall Buildings

Damn Tall Buildings made a fine headlining act at this season’s final OnStage! Show at Medford’s Chevalier Theatre last Saturday night. With their speedy, breakneck pacing, Damn Tall Buildings kicked all of their songs into high gear while displaying their highly skilled individual strengths and their highly disciplined ensemble work.

Coming on third at OnStage! presentation of Bluegrass And Beyond, this damn fine quartet opened their set with brisk fiddle playing, racing acoustic guitar melody, gritty banjo, and a plucky upright bass that kept the beat and laid out the low end support. Male vocalist Max Capistran sang with a voice full of grit and twang while playing his six string acoustic faster than a Tasmanian devil.

Capistran opened their second tune, “Evan,” with a bluesy 12 bar structure and some greasy guitar notes. Sassy belter Sasha Dubyk nailed the pace of the song and sang over her own plucky uptempo low end runs.Throw in a banjo solo from Jordan Alleman, and it swiftly turned into a kicking, rustic hoedown. The audience was visibly impressed with what they were seeing and hearing. When the band played “Steppin,’” from their latest live album, Good Enough, Dubyk showed herself to be a vocalist with a true depth, range, and richness, able to express a range of emotions with her voice.

Another of the band’s newer tunes, “Roll On, Buddy,” had more vocal twang and the quartet whipped up another speedy tempo while Dubyk’s knobby bass gave it all a platform to move around on, and they did. The instrumental portion was like a car zooming down the street, taking its corners up on two wheels. “Location” was a quiet, lonesome song with Avery “Montana” Ballotta ‘s chirpy vocal another treat for the ears, singing with his heart of his sleeve. The other three put lovely rustic textures around the picked and bowed fiddle melody Ballotta coaxed out of his axe.

Benjamin Burns, Holly McGarry, Chris “Gooch” Bloniarz of Honeysuckle

Benjamin Burns, Holly McGarry, Chris “Gooch” Bloniarz of Honeysuckle

“Angeline The Baker” found Dubyk singing as fast as the band can play with her bright, sunny timbre full of chirp over rapid rivulets of brittle notes. They could have made the entire audience dance a jig to this one. “Honey, I’m Coming Home” let Capistran slow it down and take it deep before bringing it up to a mid-tempo groove. Here, the bluegrass texture was thickly wove and it flowed forth with bright, shiny, sweet notes while the listener felt the song moving toward a favorite place.

The band brought things up to a mountain tempo with “Dead Man Need No Silver.” Hip motions built out of slappy guitar chords and a upright bass run let this song take one into its dark theme like one was on a river raft. Brisk, gritty banjo kept it in the country while forlorn, mournful fiddle work flavored it perfectly, deliciously with dark, foreboding tones.

Another original “You On My Mind” was a romantic charmer before Damn Tall Buildings closed out with the decades old bluegrass classic “Rolling In My Sweet Baby’s Arms,” which they played with freshness in their perky playing styles and their precise vocal harmonies.

Warming up for Damn Tall Buildings was the progressive folk trio Honeysuckle. Featuring banjo, acoustic guitar, and electric mandolin, vocalist Holly McGarry showcased one of those beautifully dry voices found in roots music, one that rose just above the brittle notes from the instruments, weaving a flag of texture and raising it in a fine mesh of acoustic notes.

During “Something Worthy Having,” which McGarry described as “a sad, angsty song about my hometown,” Chris “Gooch” Bloniarz pressed out his elegant electric mando notes which just sparkled alongside her golden voice. “Green Line” displayed McGarry’s wit as well as the trio’s sparkling acoustic notes, amazing all with how close they can come to pop with bright, shiny sounds.

Canary” captured the dark loneliness of coal miners who surely must feel isolated during their work shifts. McGarry’s light rasp helped conjure the images of the shadowy laborers in her song. Her considerate vocal phrasing was another plus as the trio brought the whole dire career to vivid life.

Electric mandolin player Chris “Gooch” Bloniarz later played his instrument like an electric lead guitar, drawing an intense whistling phrase.

Aurora Birch

Aurora Birch

Opening act was folk-rock soloist Aurora Birch. Birch played both electric and acoustic guitars with a nimble picking style that kept the melody sparse but full of feeling, depth, and strong enough to support her unearthly voice. She certainly captured and projected the forlorn emotions of her “Atomic Love.” One could feel an epic build up of feeling as her chords became louder in dynamics and thicker in texture as her voice contrasted by remaining in its steady hold.

It was another night of fine music at Chevalier’s OnStage! Concert Series. Sound man Jack Oliva utilized his dexterity to milk all of the detail out of those acoustic instruments and perfect voices. The performer ranged from moody and introspective to lively to outright foot stomping fun.

A couple of Damn Tall Buildings’ bar scene fans showed up and turned their set into a real hootenanny with their enthusiastic responses to the music, reminding the listening room audience that the whole listening experience doesn’t have to be taken so damn seriously. It was a fun way to end this year’s concert series. One can only look forward to next year’s OnStage! Concert Series and hope they will gain an appreciation of that fine American form of music we call blues which they highlighted well at the end of last year’s series.





All About Jazz Blog Post: Different Shapes & Sounds: Solo, Trio, Small & Large Ensembles

By CHRIS M. SLAWECKIPublished: October 9, 2014

The acoustic jazz Matadors came together while its three members—multi-woodwind playerMichael Sachs from Los Angeles, bassist Aaron Darrell from Virginia and drummerJun Young Song from Seoul (Korea)—were simultaneously pursuing undergraduate studies through Berklee College of Music scholarships. Their progressive jazz debut marks the first release on Berklee's independent record label birnCORE, was recorded live in the Berklee Internet Radio Network live room, and was produced by George Massenburg (whose decades of experience as an engineer, mixer, remixer and producer include work withLittle FeatHerbie Hancock and Linda Ronstadt). 

The quiet and thoughtful Matadorials never confuses intensity with volume and projects the studied, assured confidence of musicians equally adept at mainstream, free, modern/progressive jazz and whatever might come after that. Several titles prove most descriptive: The somber "Sullen Skies" sounds more like a studied classical miniature than like jazz, especially when someone's singing voice doubles the saxophone's melody line, and empties into total silence before the bassist picks up his solo. "Oslo" almost imperceptibly opens with percussion that softly rattles like icicles scraping against your windowpane, and then floats through a meandering melody barely tethered together through the lightest of musical threads. 

In the opening "Lisney Dand," Darrell's walking acoustic bass bumps and nudges Sachs's alto, as sharp and dry as Paul Desmond's, like a playful yet obedient pup following its master's walk. It's a quietly adventurous sound, perhaps even the new cool school: Sometimes all three seem to be soloing simultaneously, sometimes they seem to be playing in tight unison, and sometimes no one's playing at all. But the trio won't let you take "Lisney Dand" too seriously; it's arranged to deliberately sound like a skipping vinyl record—twice. 

Sachs's airy, nimble alto in "Reaudition" also brings to mind, in addition to Desmond,Mel Collins' beautiful work in King Crimson on such albums as Islands (Editions EG, 1971). So does the subsequent jumbled jazz of "Disarray," which the trio, especially drummer Young Song, scrambles into frothy rhythms—the interwoven sound of a band conversing among itself. 

Analog Revolution Reviews Jesca Hoop: Five Songs Live

Jesca Hoop: Five Songs Live EP Review

Posted by Ryan on March 18, 2014

With the recent release of Undress, Jesca Hoop fans have been rewarded with more frequent releases than ever. It was her third release in eighteen months; she’s been treating her listeners well. Five Songs Live was recorded on October 17, 2013, and it gives a glimpse of the outstanding performances she has been giving of her established material as we wait in anticipation for her next studio album.

It is the next release from birnCORE, and will be available digitally starting march 25th. Analog Revolution was fortunate enough to score a preview copy, and my impressions of the release follow.


  1. City Bird.

As haunting as ever, the echo in the room seems the deliver Jesca from a forgotten past. With prophetic-jazz lyrics, City Bird finds itself tiptoeing along familiar corridors: slower, reserved, suspenseful. “I set the table for the ghosts in my home. And pour the wine and raise a glass for the guests in my home.” Better to be haunted than lonely. City Bird exemplifies the vocal improvisations that really set this EP apart. By the end of the song, the skid-row warnings and lamentations from beyond seem unreal before the eager cheers of the audience.


  1. Murder of Birds.

This is the first time this song has been released as a solo performance. Jesca’s soprano head-voice is more elastic in the absence of Guy Garvey. A sparser rendition of this song is unimaginable. With that comes a newly found attention to lyrical content. Guy’s warmth is missed, if not for the enjoyment of the audience, then for that loneliness in Jesca’s voice. There is a melancholy that was not present before, especially during the chorus. The improvised free-singing is so detailed you can see her lips forming the words if you listen closely. The track is filled with animal imagery and the shared secrets of lovers. The way Jesca phrases each note into an arcing line is exquisite. This track is a beautiful variation on a theme.


  1. Born to.

This rendition is slower than we are familiar with. The intensity builds with each verse. Again, the solemnity in Jesca’s voice sounds mercurial. Jesca’s vocal dexterity in style and range is as diverse as ever. The song stretches from apocalyptic imagery into memoir. It transitions from third-person to first-person with eloquence and tact. The dynamics are more prominent on this track than the others. “You’ve got to get it with what you’ve got. What you’ve been given or not.” The track is a tribute to natural abilities and our potential to realize our passions, both because and in spite of them. This is no better illustrated than in Jesca herself.


  1. DNR

Warning: This song contains morbidity.

As with the previous tracks on this EP, the lyrics on this track find new prominence in the composition. The dominant-tonic one-five of Jesca’s guitar forms into a delicate pulse, wavering with the melody throughout the song. Her phrasing during the bridge is great. Just great. The smoothness of the first half of the song is contrasted by the pin-point outro. This song showcases the ever-present intimacy of Jesca’s songwriting more than ever.


  1. Hunting My Dress.

One of Jesca’s most distinguishing traits as a performer is her ability to perpetually reimagine her songs through hundreds of performances. She tends to her songs through the years like a patron saint. This performance was just three weeks before she recorded the song with Sam Beam for her album, Undress. The shape it had taken on before Sam’s arrangement shows beyond a doubt that Jesca’s music is alive. This song absolutely steals the show.
Jesca transforms her guitar into a harp during this piece. This is, perhaps, the most organic song in the repertoire of an artist who has lived in, of, and by the wilderness for years. Adopting the voices of several animals throughout the story, Jesca pleads with herself to-and-fro; never sure if she can be trusted. The instrumentation swells like the waterline of a drought-quenched reservoir. Her words grow like branches in a cove through which she lures you. Each verse leaves a new impression in its wake, as the intricacies of her song structure contrast her meditatively simplistic guitar parts. This is Jesca at her best: alive, alone, a love.

All About Jazz Blog Post

Club d'Elf: Fire in the Brain Live at Berklee (2013)

By CHRIS M. SLAWECKI, Published: March 11, 2014

"To thine own self be true" is a reliable expression, and few band biographies are more true to their subject than the official label writeup on the marvelously twisted Club d'Elf: "Circling about bassist/composer Mike Rivard (Morphine, Either/Orchestra, Guster, Boston Pops), D'Elf is a constellation of top musicians from the jazz, DJ, rock and world music scenes of Boston and NYC who get in the groove and proceed to blow it up."

Fire in the Brain presents a fevered d'Elf performance recorded in July 2012 Live at Berklee in their Boston hometown. Rivard is joined by longstanding partners in making "d'Elf music": Dean Johnston on acoustic and electric drums, DJ/turntablist Mister Rourke, Allain Mallet on keyboards and a melodica that sings both sweet and spooky, and guitarists Randy Roos and David Tronzo.

Rivard and Johnston are Berklee alumni, and Mallet, Roos and Tronzo serve on the Berklee faculty. More than 90 minutes, Fire in the Brain captures the long and wild ride of their joyous homecoming. You don't have to venture much further than its two-part leadoff title track: "Part 1" opens with a disembodied, swirling voice introducing "what I call the elf music"—a great example of how turntablist/DJ Rourke uses the human voice to introduce not only narrative direction but different colors into the band's sonic palette—and ends with guitar screams which sound like a monster that escaped from King Crimson's epic Starless & Bible Black (Editions EG, 1974). Mallet quickly commandeers "Part 2" with an electric solo that nods and winks to Sun Ra, John Medeski and Horace Silver, and seems to simultaneously channel Brian Auger and Herbie Hancock in the subsequent "Black Heart Rebels."

Rivard swaps his bass for a sintir, the three-stringed Moroccan bass lute that's traditionally used by a mystical Sufi brotherhood of trance healers, for the final two tunes. He introduces a Moroccan vibe while Johnston's drums reflect shades of hip-hop and dub into "Peace One," composed by guitarist John McLaughlin for his landmark My Goal's Beyond (Douglas/Columbia, 1971). Atop the fading tumult of the finale—the Moroccan traditional "Zeed Al Maal"—Rourke drops in the line, "The experience of the dissolution of boundary and form..." to close this quite remarkable set.

I received a gift copy of Stanley Kramer's 1963 monumental It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World ("the comedy that would end all comedies," Kramer once vowed) this past Christmas. Listening to Fire in the Brain is much like watching that ensemble comedy classic: After you become familiar with the threads that run through things—the movie's plot and the music's development—you can pretty much jump in anywhere and know that you're not far from somebody in the ensemble stepping forward to deliver an inspired performance.

Track Listing: Fire in the Brain Part 1; Fire in the Brain Part 2; Nematodes; Black Heart Rebels; Jar of Hair; Big Light in Sky; Peace One; Zeed Al Maal.

Personnel: David Tronzo: slide guitar; Randy Roos: guitar; Alain Mallet: keyboards, melodica; Mister Rourke: turntables; Mike Rivard: bass, sintir, bass kalimba; Dean Johnston: drums, electronic percussion.

Record Label: Birncore

Style: Modern Jazz

Read the blog here

No Country For New Nashville Podcast - Brooke Waggoner

No Country Podcast

Music blog, No Country For New Nashville, sits down with your favorite artists from Nashville and beyond. The first guest on the podcast is Brooke Waggoner. 

Join BMI's Brad Wilson and Stan Edward as they take over Brooke's studio to talk about her new release, Sing To Me (Live In Boston),  through birnCORE, what movies she's watched recently, and her impressive white-picket fence. 

No Country Podcast is available for streaming, here.

Brooke's first live album, Sing To Me (Live In Boston) is available through birnCORE, here.

Radio Boston Reviews Club d'Elf's "Fire In The Brain"

Radio Boston  November 26, 2013

Club d’Elf frontman, bassist Mike Rivard plays the Moroccan sintir at Club Helsinki in 2011. (Andrew Janjigian/Flickr Creative Commons)

Club d’Elf frontman, bassist Mike Rivard plays the Moroccan sintir at Club Helsinki in 2011. (Andrew Janjigian/Flickr Creative Commons)

For 16 years in Greater Boston, a group of ever-changing but highly talented musicians have been performing an eclectic mix of music under the name Club d’Elf.

The musicians are mostly a rotating cast performing with bassist Mike Rivard. More than 100 musicians have been a part of Club d’Elf at any given time. They play a mix of jazz, electronica trance music with Moroccan influences.

They are hosting an release party for their new album “Fire in the Brain (Live at Berklee)” this Friday at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge.


Mike Rivard, sintir

Dave Tronzo, slide guitar

Mister Rourke, DJ

Dean Johnston, drums

Paul Schultheis, keyboard

ALBUM REVIEW: Fire In The Brain by Club d'Elf


Review by Bill Grady ‘14


Fearless. Innovative. Powerful.  Upon first listen these are the first three words the music of Club d’Elf evokes, and their new album, Fire In The Brain, does just that.  Recorded live at Café 939 in July of 2012, the BIRN is proud to release this incredible new album on our BIRNCore label.


As any Berklee student knows, every student and faculty member has their own projects they claim are completely “original” or “game-changing.”  Then there are the inevitable listening sessions with friends where one is subjected to everything from Asian Heavy Metal Hip-Hop to Israeli Funk-Fusion.  By the time I reached my senior year, I thought I had heard it all.  Then I listened to Fire In The Brain, and I was exposed to something the likes of which I had never heard before.  The uniqueness of the instrumentation, the combination of different musical styles, and the energy and quality of the performance make this album a tour de force that doesn’t care if the listener likes it as long as he or she acknowledges its creative persistence.


Club d’Elf was founded in 1998 by frontman, bassist, and composer Mike Rivard.  Since then the band has never stopped being daring in its live performances.  The band doesn’t have a set line-up for every show; on the contrary, the guests that come and go with each concert is what makes the music truly original every time it’s played.  Past guests have included John Medeski & Billy Martin (MMW), DJ Logic, Marc Ribot, Skerik, and Marco Benevento among others.  For this particular album, Rivard stayed close to home and got some of the best Berklee faculty the school has to offer.  Along with Rivard on bass, sintir, and bass kilimba, the rhythm section is completed by Dean Johnston on drums and electronic percussion, Alain Mallet on keys and melodica, and Mister Rourke on turntables.  Rounding out the line up are Randy Roos on guitar and avant-garde slide master Dave Tronzo.  Just the idea of combining those instruments in a live setting seems risible to the everyday listener, but it’s this iconoclastic view that makes Club d’Elf’s sound rise to the top of the fusion scene.


With such a variety of instruments, sounds, and personal backgrounds coming together, multiple genres can be picked out of the bands distinctive sound.  Rivard describes the bands influences as such: The music draws from a startlingly wide spectrum of styles, including jazz, hip hop, electronica, prog-rock and dub, with the band exploring mash-ups of these diverse musical universes before the term was even in use. A Squarepusher-styled drum’n’bass groove may give way to a traditional North Indian tabla interlude, in turn dissolving into some Miles “Live Evil” type electric mayhem.


Every song on the album is a painting, with each different influence adding color and variety to create a product greater than the sum of its parts.  The guitar-driven jam “Nemotodes” sounds like The Allman Brothers jamming with traditional Moroccan musicians, where as “Big Light In the Sky” is straight-up Headhunters style funk with the added tinge of Pink Floyd-esque sampling courtsty of Mister Rourke.  One must note, however, that no matter how strong the influence on a particular track, the sound is never derivative and always original.


Just because Club d’Elf’s music is different and sophisticated compared to some of the other live acts around does not mean that this is “sit down in your living room with a cup of tea and analyze every note” music.  The energy of the performers on stage elicits the same reaction from the audience, forming an inter-personal relationship and vulnerability with the crowd that is seldom seen at other shows of the same genre.  After speaking personally with members of the band, some of them didn’t even realize the show that became Fire In the Brain was being recorded.  That means that everything that happened on stage - every success, every mistake, every tightrope walking moment of risk and reward - was the same product that is delivered every show by this amazing collective of musicians.  This is a band that thrives on the integrity of live performance, never predictable, but always honest.  Engineer Ryan Walsh did an amazing job taming the beast that is the Club d’Elf sound, making every timbre, every level, and every emotion crystal clear.  This gives the listener the feeling of not only communicating with the band but also experiencing the zeitgeist of the crowd itself.


The BIRN couldn’t be more excited to work with the great members of Club d’Elf, and we thank them for their participation.  Be sure to check out the album on iTunes today!

Berklee Releases An Article About birnCORE

Making a Record with birnCORE


Lesley Mahoney

November 18, 2013


photo by Mike Spencer

photo by Mike Spencer

To the uninitiated, the concert looked like a regular night at Cafe 939 as Jesca Hoop—the Manchester, England-based indie performer who has an almost ethereal presence—transfixed the audience with her quirky, norm-bending, rule-defying lyrics. What wasn’t obvious was that the show was an album-in-the-making. Upstairs, engineers in the Berklee Internet Radio Network (BIRN) studios recorded the concert and streamed it live on the BIRN. The captured audio will be mixed by Berklee alumnus Aaron Bastinelli and cut into an album to be released by Berklee Internet Radio Network Cooperative Recordings, or birnCORE.

Opening for Hoop was Cocoa Jackson Lane featuring Jess Harlen, whose performance will also be made into an album to be mixed by a student engineer.

Berklee’s new independent record label, which in the last year has been quietly signing an impressive roster of established artists, celebrated its launch that night, October 17. That same day,Brooke Waggoner’s Sing to Me (Live in Boston), which was recorded at Waggoner's concert in April, was offered to fans, five days before birnCORE officially released the album. The label's next release,Club d'Elf's Fire in the Brain (Live at Berklee), will drop on November 19.

The brainchild of electronic production and design professor Stephen Croes, the label has evolved in stages over a few years. Under Croes’s leadership, the BIRN production studio was revamped and upgraded.

The next step was to develop a contract for artists, an agreement by which Berklee can multitrack record and make an album; under the contract, Berklee owns the recording and splits the profits 50/50 with the artist. All the albums will be recorded by students and mixed by students or alumni.

The label tested out the process during an artist-in-residence visit from recording engineer George Massenburg when the alumni jazz trio the Matadors performed for a recording session. The sound was so good that it made sense to use for a first pass at an album, recalls Tony Brown, special projects manager for the Professional Writing and Music Technology Division and operations manager for the BIRN and birnCORE. Now, birnCORE is poised to cut its fourth and fifth albums. 

The label shows how far the BIRN has come since its inception in 2006. A few years later, the radio station began broadcasting shows live, and later, recording shows and making them available for artists’ promotional use.

“We went from just broadcasting the shows and interviewing bands to broadcasting and recording and giving bands a copy of their show, to where we are now—producing albums,” says Brown.

The albums are available for digital download for less than $10 and they are posted on the birnCORE website as well as through online stores throughout the world, such as iTunes and Amazon, via the Orchard, birnCORE’s distributor.

To at least cover its costs, birnCORE’s business model calls for approaching artists like Waggoner and Club d’Elf, who were booked for Cafe 939 and already have a loyal following.

“There are a lot of great people coming through,” says Brown. “It’s just a matter of reaching out and asking if they’re interested in doing a record.”

For the birnCORE release show, the label booked Hoop and Harlen’s band.

“One thing that’s really surprised us is that we’ve been able to get this level of talented people to sign with us,” Brown says. Hoop toured as a background vocalist for Peter Gabriel and Waggoner played piano on Jack White’s debut solo album and toured with him as part of an all-female back-up group. “These are people who are really highly regarded.”

Students Get Real World Label Experience

In addition to putting out records for established artists, birnCORE offers Berklee students a chance to work on a record label, similar to student-run enterprises Jazz Revelation Records and Heavy Rotation Records, which feature student artists.

“This allows Berklee to participate in the music industry on a day-to-day basis,” Brown says. “It will give them a true taste of the music industry.”

Indeed, MP&E major Ryan Walsh was the recording, mixing, and editing engineer for the Club d’Elf album. He spent a good portion of last summer working alongside the band’s frontman and alumnus Mike Rivard '85, who served as the album’s producer.

“This experience was intense,” Walsh says, noting that it went beyond anything he’d experienced in his job as the BIRN’s studio manager. “Mike really pushed me during the process. He definitely had an expectation of what this record was going to be, and he would not settle for anything less. Mike and I were constantly listening to my mixes, taking notes, meeting multiple times a week, and remixing. It was exhausting, but I learned that I needed to take Mike's expectations and make them my own.”

Walsh knows he’ll take these lessons with him after he leaves Berklee. “The most important lesson of all was to make the record sound great and to not settle for anything else.”

Walsh, who will have several commercial album credits to his name before he graduates in May, doesn't take the opportunity for granted and also sees the value of what birnCORE is offering to artists. “The main goal is the music and showcasing fantastic artists in a live setting. Live music has such an energy to it that I feel is captured beautifully on these records."

Another student is getting a taste of the business end of birnCORE. An intern for the label, music business/management major Cara McCarthy is getting experience with everything from A&R to digital download cards. She’s pulling lessons from her time studying abroad last spring at Berklee’s Valencia campus, during which she attended the music business tradeshow Midem, and her internship last summer at Red Music, the artist development and music distribution division of Sony.

“To have this on my resume is amazing,” says McCarthy. “If I’m going to try to work in the music industry, this is the best experience. Building this from the ground up and being involved in every small detail of it gives me a better understanding of what a record label is.”

As birnCORE paves the way for long-term goals like making enough money to support itself and representing itself at industry destinations such as SXSW and CMJ, students like McCarthy and Walsh are helping to shape what birnCORE is now—signing established artists and making albums.

Boston.com Releases Article About birnCORE

Berklee College of Music launches independent record label

By Matt Rocheleau, Town Correspondent

The Berklee College of Music has launched an independent record label to give students “real-life record making experience,” campus officials announced.

The label, Berklee Internet Radio Network Cooperative Records or birnCORE, records independent artists who visit performance facilities at the college’s campus.

Student engineers work with the artists to mix the albums and the label then releases LPs digitally at no costs to the artist, prices each to sell at about $5 and splits half of revenues with artists.

“Harnessing the impressive roster of performers already visiting campus, birnCORE’s model focuses on simplicity,” said a statement from Berklee, which launched the label this month.

“While earning academic credit and on-the-job training, students gain real-life record making experience at birnCORE,” campus officials said. “Music business students act as artists and repertoire executives, while music production and engineering students earn album credits as mixing and recording engineers. Students are also the creative forces behind the album art.”

“A birnCORE record costs artists nothing; their only investment is promoting the birnCORE album to their fans,” the college added.

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at mjrochele@gmail.com. Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.



Electronic Musician Magazine Releases Article About birnCORE

Berklee Launches Independent Record Label


Mon,21 Oct 2013

Students at Berklee College of Music can now learn the ins and outs of an independent record label through the college's new label, Berklee Internet Radio Network Cooperative Records (birnCORE). birnCORE records some of today’s best independent artists who visit Berklee’s campus performance facilities, from the 200-seat Red Room @ Cafe 939 to the college’s state-of-the-art internet radio studio. Student engineers mix the albums to the artists’ specifications. Released digitally, birnCORE LPs are priced to sell at about $5.

Harnessing the impressive roster of performers already visiting campus, birnCORE’s model focuses on simplicity. While earning academic credit and on-the-job training, students gain real-life record making experience at birnCORE. Music business students act as artists and repertoire executives, while music production and engineering students earn album credits as mixing and recording engineers. Students are also the creative forces behind the album art. A birnCORE record costs artists nothing; their only investment is promoting the birnCORE album to their fans.

birnCORE is celebrating its launch with a performance by UK-based, “slyly inventive,” “lyrical wizard” singer-songwriter Jesca Hoop, the most recent artist to sign on for a birnCORE release on October 17 at the Red Room @ Cafe 939 at 8:00 p.m. Because of birnCORE’s unique model, the launch party also serves as her birnCORE recording session. That same day, birnCORE will release Sing to Me – Live in Boston, birnCORE’s release of singer-songwriter Brooke Waggoner, who performed on campus earlier this year. A rising star on the online music scene, Waggoner’s singles have beendownloaded 270,000 times, and this is her fourth LP.


- See more at: http://www.emusician.com/news/0766/berklee-launches-independent-record-label/153159#sthash.dvfjjIDD.dpuf

birnCORE Records Release Show Review

By Caleb Hsu


photo taken by Ece Muniroglu

photo taken by Ece Muniroglu

The Berklee Internet Radio Network celebrated the launch of their new live music independent record label, birnCORE Records this past Thursday, bringing two emerging artists to grace Café 939’s stage. The night was unpretentious and presumably intentionally so, having minimalistic stage setups with enough intimacy you’d expect from The Red Room.

Coco Jackson Lane (CJL) opened the night with animated lead singer Jess Harlen’s commanding vocals taking the room. Consisting of band members from Berklee, the Pacific, South East Asia, and Barcelona, the group instinctively delivered an honest and raw performance with compelling lyrics that demanded attention and focus. With minimalistic harmonic accompaniments, you focused on the emotive content of each of their songs. Though the band is relatively new to the performance stage, they make up for potential rookie inexperience with infectious music with rhythmical feels that set them apart from contending openers just getting their feet wet in the live show pool. CJL upholds a tight unity on stage while maintaining a fun, lively atmosphere. They had the free-spirited folks of the room on their feet swaying their worries away from the day to funk grooves propelled by strong bass lines.


Originally from California (now based in Manchester, UK), Jesca Hoop continued the night with a mellow and velvety personality, mentioning this show was her first headlining show in Boston. Though there was quite a significant jump in style and overall stage persona from the first act to Jesca’s performance, the striking contrast was welcomed. She called her set the “the sunrise set” after “partying hard” with the opening act. Beginning with an “ethereal rumination” on the subject of homelessness and poverty, Jesca had a dark warmth to her voice that matched her lyricism, simultaneously being uplifting and haunting.


Jesca has a quality of singing that becomes conversational with a feeling of restrained effervescence. She writes poetic lyrical content where words become images that convey pictorial landscapes and create aural sceneries. There’s a level of playful mischief and precociousness in her songs. Jesca also mentioned that she released demons during her writing process, coming from a religious background, saying “it’s about the conversation you start.” You sense juxtaposition between her youthful innocence and the maturity of her onstage performance. Overall, Jesca has a beautiful voice that flutters effortlessly through all registers and captures an unparalleled conviction.


Check out all of our photos from the night on our Facebook page!

October 22, 2013 6:58pm

© Berklee College of Music. All Rights Reserved.