TokiMonsta Welcome Back!

It’s been roughly two years since I last saw TOKiMONSTA in Chicago, and this time the fans are definitely ready for her. The problem last time, I felt, was that the fans at the show weren’t as in touch with her and weren’t as familiar with their music as they should have been. Either that or they were all youngsters exhibiting the cold Chicago stare, which seems to be common at some shows around Chicago, like when I went to see Sylvan Esso. I find it beyond annoying, but audiences, in an attempt to appear cool, show little enthusiasm even if it’s an artist they love. Pure thrill and excitement, may be displayed as a gentle sway back and and forth, rather than the jumping and shouting that is seen by normal audiences.

The friendly and eager chatter, hours before the show was to begin, was assurance that this would not be the Toki show from two years ago. Fans were very early for the show, and they were all talking with one another, the energy in the room thick with excitement. I talked to two fellow photographers, who were just here to enjoy the show. One of them, Eric, had drove over two hours from Bloomington, IL to see Jennifer Lee’s set. As the first opener started, the crowd was ready to dance, albeit still nervous in typical “high school dance” fashion: people gradually moved to the front by the stage, save for a wide patch right in front of the stage, which was completely void of people. Slowly, a few brave souls danced solo in the middle and wandered back. One person in the crowd was showing off incredible moves, doing handstands and flips and making it look easy. He was cheered on by everyone, and soon, people started to join and fill in the area in front of the stage.

The openers did a great job, and there was good variety. The first act was more house style and chill step, and the second act was a hip hop group with a jazzy and soulful feel. The crowd was very excited and followed all the MC’s commands with cheer. Alas, TOKiMONSTA took the stage and the crowd went wild. Jennifer is always blushing and grinning on stage during her performances, but I’m pretty sure she was feeling especially gleeful during this one just based on the overwhelming energy from the crowd. Her humility and appreciation for her fans is so natural for her and she genuinely feels it. Through every jam, the crowd just went wilder and wilder. Everyone was engaged and jamming to the beats. I had to leave the front of the stage to go to the restrooms a few times, and each time felt like it would be an impossible feat to make it back up. That’s how tightly packed people were and how much they wanted to be as close to the music as possible.

She played several of her well known hits, like 2 On, Realla and Steal My Attention, along with few remixes from Midnight Menu. The setlist was very fresh and I honestly didn’t explicitly recognize which songs they were, so I’m guessing she was playing newish mixes, or perhaps, just mixes I had never heard.

The visual display behind her was very satisfying to watch, and I give props to the designer who put together those graphics. They add a mysterious and mesmerizing quality to the show, and staring at it long enough dead on, can bring you to your own world of fantasy. The sound quality was also very noteworthy, perhaps the only venue I’ve been to (I haven’t been to them ALL but I’m getting there) that is better than Concord Music Hall. The quality of the bass was very resonant without being too boomy; powerful yet pure.

After her final encore, everyone struggled to make their way out. Determined to get another picture with her like I did the last time I saw her, I plotted out potential sighting points. I knew she wouldn’t be hanging around the merch table, just given setup, and I didn’t feel like she was going to be over there. Also, she would be bombarded with little room for escape. Wandering outside, I noticed her tour bus waiting for her on the sidewalk, along with a few smokers and a handful of fans pacing and looking around. Bingo. Settled on this as my waiting point, I made some conversation with some of the other fans. We wondered why there weren’t more people who had figured out this is where Jennifer would most likely be, by her tour bus! Finally, the moment came and the door from the venue opened, and there she was! Holding a container of mixed fruits and a Lara bar, I gently approached her with a tamed intensity. In typical fanboy fashion, I foolishly tried to quickly show her the photo of us from two years ago, she looked at my phone kind of confused and I realized the mistake I was making, wasting precious moments of my time with her and wasting her patience for everyone who was going to ask for a photo. I quickly backtracked and just asked for a photo and she took a wonderful photo, very happy confident and appreciative for us all. There were just a few more photos, including a group shot and then Jennifer politely excused herself and boarded her bus. I could tell she was wiped from the show and likely from traveling and just wanted to eat her fruitarian meal and go to bed. But she stayed for the very end and made sure her fans were satisfied. Well she made this fan very happy!




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KSRA Performs at the House of Blues Chicago

House Of Blues Chicago, January 20, 2015

House Of Blues Chicago, January 20, 2015

Anticipation was high as House of Blues guests were eagerly waiting for Chicago rapper K.Flay to finally step out onto the stage. Growing impatient, the crowd stirred just before the lights dimmed and the curtain drew back to reveal a girl behind a small assortment of mixers, dressed like she was going to teach a yoga meditation class. This was not K.Flay. Before the crowd could complain, she began to sing, and the crowd soon forgot they were ever growing impatient at all. Her name was KSRA, and her beautiful vocals and slick beats with ticking hi hats pleased the audience quite nicely. While the set up lacked low end oomph, this was likely because her feed was sadly not coming through the main house woofers.

Nonetheless, KSRA performed wonderfully, gracing the stage in a dreamy, joyous state, flawlessly keeping track of every element of her workstation. Her ability to manage her array of electronic equipment – keeping beats on cue with machine-like consistency – while performing breathtaking operatic vocal runs with astonishing ease and precision was exceedingly impressive. Amazingly, she was able to do all this and maintain a bubbly free-spirited composure throughout. Maybe her yoga-inspired set and wardrobe design go beyond just an image and are reflective of her personal lifestyle, harnessing principles that enable her to calm herself and perform with zen-like focus. Or perhaps her extensive training in opera singing gives her a crown of confidence that frees her to concentrate on well-timed commands on her workstation.

KSRA demonstrating mastery of her live looping style in her performance of Red Letter

Regardless of the source of her focus, her passion for her craft goes without question. Following her education at the University of Michigan, KSRA, Rachel Sarah Thomas, left Ann Arbor for a journey of self-discovery. After beginning her act in 2011 following some bizarre cosmic signaling, she charged ahead, drawing influences from legends like Mariah Carey, Prince and Whitney Houston, even playing at a TEDx event in the summer of 2013. Throughout her time as KSRA, Rachel continued to woo the fans of Chicago at festivals like SXSW with her angelic and sultry singing style.

On stage at the House of Blues, she mentioned that she’s finished recording her second album but hasn’t yet released it. That hasn’t stopped her from working on her third album, even surprising the audience with a special treat by performing the track Get Me High, from her unreleased third album. Judging by the response, I’m sure the crowd didn’t mind at all.

See KSRA’s full performance on YouTube

Read KSRA’s Interview by Jake Krzeczowski

Hello World!

Here it is, the first post.

This blog is dedicated to the inspiring musicians who commit their lives to music, while being true to themselves, not being afraid to feel and creating music in the process. I plan to write about artists and genres I’m currently interested in, although I will deviate from time to time to expand the content here and keep things fresh. I tend to gravitate towards female vocalists, so don’t be surprised if you notice a trend forming, but we’ll see what happens.

FKA Twigs at the Metro in Chicago on November 13, 2014

Artists like FKA Twigs have been a huge inspiration for me.

You may start to see who my favorites are and what I generally like, but I don’t want to make this a shrine to only a select few. I’ll save that for another blog, perhaps an eBook. I’ll cover concerts I go to, post videos of artists, and even interviews. Above all, what you’ll be seeing here the most, are posts about songs, albums and artists.

Thank you my friends for all your support and helping me get this off the ground!