The Current's Barb Abney played host throughout the evening, and she brought an excited fan energy to her time on the mic. Not only that, she was very informative as well, making sure to let everyone know information about each act and where their next show was going to be. The first act of the primarily female cast was La Manchita, a rapper connected with Tha Clerb who got a rare chance to strike out solo. With an appropriately reserved energy and a smile on her face, she brought forth vibrant material that featured 2% Muck manning the beats and Spyder Baybie Raw Dogg providing occasional verses.
She's someone to keep an eye out for, and she's a strong solo performer, bringing a similar sense of fun and rawness that the Chalice do. As tends to be the case early in the night, the back of the room was tightly packed but the dance floor was surprisingly sparse, with Lizzo acting as hardcore fan dancing up front. Audio Perm's Julian Fairbanks and Taylor Madrigal spun beats in between, carefully selecting club songs that fit the night, and their choice of Destiny's Child "Jumpin' Jumpin'" among others was exactly perfect.
A. Wolf and Her Claws continued the show with a spirited and experimental approach to vocal-centric music, laying down sparse noise rhythms and synth lines beneath Aby Wolf's tightly calibrated singing. "We sing hard; that's no lie," she stated at one point in the night, and it was true. Her vocal dexterity goes beyond the melodies and lyrics to display a strong sense of mic control, creating different sounds based on where she held the mic and at what volume she belted. At one point she encouraged people to participate in footwork along to her hi-hat-happy song inspired by the dance style; sadly, no one had the ability or courage, and she might want to consider recruiting someone on stage officially, because that would've been awesome.
All of her strange and spacey music contained that element of dancability, and the crowd slowly warmed up to the challenge of moving their bodies. A. Wolf and Her Claws are at their best when working with strong vocal trickery, and at points the combination of Aby and her back-up singer Linnea Mohn became a hypnotic mixture of pop and opera, as they traded who lead the harmony and switched up where the song took you.
When backing band Sexy Delicious took the stage, audience anticipation for the Chalice to spring forth made opening song "Ladies Night" hit with a punch. Claire de Lune, Sophia Eris, and Lizzo have a remarkable stage presence that combines individual talents into a powerful whole, weaving between rapping, singing, and synchronized dancing on each track. It's an eclectic sound that stays vibrant and fun whatever direction they're taking you, and it draws intentional influence from some of the great girl groups of rap and R'n'B while cultivating a new sound. Switching quickly between hard-as-nails fast-raps to sensuous sung portions kept the show full of surprises.
Each member has a history as a solo artist, and The Chalice's set was designed to highlight both the group effort and their individual components. After a few group songs, Sophia Eris took center stage and performed a poem, highlighting her background as a spoken word artist. She used her section to showcase her personal artistic progression, doing a three-song mini-set that slowly integrated music (via backing conga drum and eventually beats) to establish how her raps grew from her writing poems. The initial switch from full band to Sophia alone was a stark contrast that was jarring at first but built to a fever once she jumped into the crowd and built the energy back up with her raw raps.
Next, Claire de Lune played highlights from her own material off New Lion, with Big Cats spinning beats. Having played "Stay" at the front end of the night's set, she now stood alone to sing "Declaration", which brought a fitting confidence to a song about feminine agency. When MaLLy and TruthBeTold took stage to rap, sing (!), and play air saxophone along with Claire on "Save The Day", it exemplified her stepping out from under the shadow of acts she's provided hooks for, as now they were providing back-up for her songs. The torchlight vocals was a highlight of the night.
When Lizzo emerged with her other project the Larva Ink in tow, she showcased where she cut her teeth as a strong frontwoman, giving a powerful performance with a rock-tinged approach to electro-pop stylings. Lizzo has an undeniable magnetism and a hell of a voice, and anyone into the Chalice should definitely keep their ears out for her other group. When she got into the swing of the rhythmically heavy "Back Again", the crowd exploded and everyone in the place was moving.
It pretty much remained at this level through the rest of the show, when the Chalice as a whole returned, finishing out the show over beats. It was gigantic towards the end, especially once the live band returned at the encore for closer "Drop Em", which starts with a sultry coo but leaps into a crunchy distorted guitar line once Lizzo starts her rapidfire verse. It was an intense moment that only got more so once the band launched into Salt 'N Pepa's classic "Push It", jamming on the song until the night concluded. The whole night was an immense success and a ridiculous amount of fun.
Critic's Bias: I personally have been wanting a group like this to exist for a long time.
The Crowd: A lot of local artists were in attendance, as well as many press, but plenty of fans of all ages and backgrounds.
Random Notebook Dump: Is "Push It" not the greatest synth line ever written? Discuss.
Overheard in the Crowd: An emphatic "Oh Shit!!!" at the sound of Destiny's Child's "Jumpin' Jumpin'"
Stay (Claire de Lune)
Real Recognize Real
Rest Your Head Up (Sophia Eris)
Sophia Eris solo set:
- I'm Wondering
- Jambe Theme
Claire de Lune solo set:
-Save the Day (feat MaLLy and Chris Hooks)
Lizzo and Larva Ink set
Crown on the Rocks