It's pretty hard to find anything bad to say about FADER Fort, which kicked off its 2013 mini-festival last night. The expertly-curated showcase consistently picks the CMJ acts that are about to make it big (last year it was Icona Pop, and in 2011 it was Grimes), and puts them onstage in a tricked-out, converted warehouse in Brooklyn in front of a small, enthusiastic crowd. This is the stuff that concert-going dreams are made of.
Wet, a Brooklyn-based R&B-meets-electro-pop project, played first on Thursday night. Vocalist Kelly Zutrau had listeners spellbound from the first note: Wet sounds like a sleeker, female-led How To Dress Well or Active Child, with punishing bass and saturated but sparse synthesizers. The result was a gorgeous, intimate set of brooding R&B, which peaked with the melancholy "No Lie." Wet's self-titled EP is out now on Bandcamp, and is just about the best use of $4 this reviewer can think of.
Next up was Kan Wakan, the Los Angeles band started by multi-instrumentalist Geuorgui Linev. Kan Wakan has been called orchestral rock, baroque pop--any number of genres that don't adequately encompass what they do. The instrumentation, at times, bore a lot of resemblance to that on Sufjan Stevens' Age of Adz (seriously), and Kristianne Bautista's vocals sounded like a more bluesy, sultry Rachael Yamagata. "Midnight Moon, Parts I and II" was breathtaking--its lilting violin, slightly dissonant saxophone, and haunting piano chords gave this reviewer chills. It's the sort of music that makes you forget you're standing on a concrete floor in a warehouse, likely losing your hearing little by little (and even so, for this, it's probably worth it). Stream their new EP here.
FADER Fort then shifted gears a little: JODY, the Chicago R&B supergroup featuring vocalists David Robertson, Khalee Standberry-Lois, James King, and Cole Johnson was up next. In contrast to Wet's take on the genre, JODY's R&B was far rowdier, more upbeat, and energetic. And while Kan Wakan had left the crowd sort of awed, JODY made them smile. The group was tremendously charismatic, and clearly had a ton of fun performing--and at one point, serendaded an unsuspecting audience member. This was contagious: by the end of the set when the group's laptop crashed, a sizeable contingent of audience members had started dancing, and the performers eagerly hopped the partition into the crowd to join them.
The next set was a short, loud, and impressive performance by Northampton, Massachusetts all-girl punk band Potty Mouth. After just one song, vocalist Abby Weems unbraided her pigtails, indicating that things were getting serious. The evening ended with performances by Strange Talk, Kelela, and the Internet.