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Kaleo @ The Fonda 10/29/16. Photo by Derrick K. Lee, Esq. (@Methodman13) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Kaleo @ The Fonda 10/29/16. Photo by Derrick K. Lee, Esq. (@Methodman13) for www.BlurredCulture.com.

Earlier this year, a friend and I got to catch Kaleo perform at The Troubadour. Midway during that performance, I texted my friend (I was up front shooting the show), “This band has a lot of potential.” With two sold-out nights at the Fonda Theatre a few months later, it would appear that my gut-feeling is materializing in real-time.

After taking in the second of their two night stint at The Fonda, I decided to ponder this: “How does a band from Iceland, with a name that originates from Hawaiian culture (“the sound”), go from performing at a small club in west Hollywood to selling out two nights at large venue in Hollywood proper in a matter of a several months?”

It starts with their music. The dirty blues rock sounds that they grind out on stage is akin to a polished version of the Black Keys. Still raw and gritty, but with a nice, smooth polish. It’s blues that is steeped in tradition and familiarity, but imbued with  catchy hooks that always seem to lead to a climax.

It continues with their musicianship. From the soulful inflections of JJ Julius Son’s vocals to the absolutely vicious, blues shredding of Rubin Pollock, the music would be nothing if not for each player’s ability to manifest the sounds from their recordings in a live setting.

The music and musicianship further shines with the way the band expands their sonic range by giving their brand of blues flourishes of  congruent musical genres. Country, folk, Americana … flavors of each are sprinkled throughout the music, giving the listeners the variety it needs to keep it on its toes.

Their live performance was accentuated by their sharp stage production. The way the lighting was choreographed with their music was as polished and clean as the music itself. It’s eye candy that helps set the mood for each composition that is performed, and if anybody tell you that stage production is a “secondary” concern, send them my way so I can slap the back of their head.

Finally, it’s their front man. Look … I’m there for the music. I’m there because blues rock floats my boat, and because nothing gets me more than a traditional blues riff. It was the first thing that caught my ear when I heard this band, and the reason why I wanted to cover the show. My guest’s first thought upon seeing Kaleo take the stage … a female guest … I received as a text while I was in the photo pit: “I demand close ups of the guitarist”.

And that’s the icing on this Icelandic band’s cake. They’ve got the sound. They’ve got the chops. They know how to put on a show. And their lead singer … apparently … is a hottie with really good hair. Certainly, my friend wasn’t the only one enamored by JJ Julius Son’s good looks. As I scanned the venue, women of all ages, ethnicities and sizes stared longingly at the stage as he crooned, growled and bellowed his lyrics. When the group started into “All The Pretty Girls” and JJ went into his falsetto, you could feel a collective sign of warm, restless breath released in air.

With one album under their belt, Kaleo seems to have the goods to keep audiences coming back for more. Hopefully, they’ll continue the upward trajectory of the career path with a solid sophomore album.

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