Jen Awad Celebrates “Jewel Of The Nile” At The House Of Machines Jen Awad Is Spreading Her New Soul With New Music
LOS ANGELES, CA- Earlier this year, I missed out on Jen Awad’s residency stint at the Echo, and I kicked myself in the ass for that. It had been months since I had last seen Jen absolutely kill it at Broke L.A., a performance that made me an instant fan to the point that I’ve tried to even recruit her to perform for Blurred Culture’s Madame Siam showcases.
When I saw the social media notices that she was about to drop a new EP, and celebrate the same at the House Of Machines, I new that I needed to catch this soul infused diva channel the spirits of Aretha Franklin and Charles Bradley again.
Kicking off the evening’s musical fare was the LA-based drag queen-fronted rock band DMTina and the Bumps. It was the first time I had seen this band perform, but from what I gather (based on Mr. Google), DMTtina is Alex Mars and the Bumps are Coleman Moore (Bass), Eli Viszolay (Guitar) and Warren Murrel (Drums). The band has been releasing music since 2015, with their most recent singles being “Over Again” and “Not That Evil” which were released earlier this year.
It was a shame that their performance was so early in the evening, because it was a performance that was loud, brash and- most importantly- fun, like their music. Alex noted the sparse crowd, but still gave it his all on, off and even under … literally … the stage. Those who were in attendance saw a band and their leader have a free wheeling good time, free of any fucks-given, and it made for a nice jolt of energy to kick of the night.
Strawberry Army was another band that I was able to catch for the first time at this gig, but I was already familiar with their music. In fact, after I heard their single “Clementine”, and their lead singer’s hypnotic vocals over an aggressive punk infused groove, I reached out to them to see if they’d be interested in rocking my Madame Siam showcase. When I found out that the founding, identical twin sisters Zoe and Rio Infante were only 15 years old (now 16), I had to, at the time, reconsider them playing my 21+ club.
What’s impressed me with this young band is the amount of content they keep pushing out and the number of gigs that they keep lining up. After they dropped their solid debut EP Citrus Grove in 2018, they came back in 2019 with another similarly solid sophomore EP RED. Their music is breezy punk that’s fun and spirited, and likely to put smile on your face, or give your belly a laugh. I’m mean, “Melancholy Burger”? HAHAHA. That’s 1:14 of stupid fun that I just can’t stop listening to for some reason.
Their performance for Jen was equally as entertaining. For a band that’s so young, I was impressed with how polished and self-assured- even when their guitar player’s axe strap goes bad during the show- they are on stage. Clearly, their relentless gigging around town has helped them in developing their live show. Their lead singer (I don’t know whether that’s Zoe or Rio as I haven’t quite figured that out yet), embodies a natural, sassy confidence that many performer’s can only dream to have.
The last opening act of the evening was Sister Mantos, and boy-oh-boy, if you want to get the party started off right with a proper dance party, you can’t go wrong with this band. This band was a revelation.
Founded by Oscar Miguel Santos, Sister Mantos is more of a collective than an actual band. With over 40 players who have played with Oscar through the years, 8 of them were present for Jen’s EP release party, and they brought their glorious disco infused, electronic latin-pop with a splash of funk to The House Of Machines.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t paying too much attention to the lyrics of their songs (which are sung in both Spanish and English). I was really letting their psychedelic latin grooves get into my soul and move my feet. It was almost a trance like fixation, and it was a joyous fix that had the whole room moving their rhythms. It was a veritable disco dance party. The only thing missing was a disco ball.
After the Sister Mantos dance party concluded, the room was well lubricated for the indubitably soulful bad-assery of the inimitable Jen Awad.
There are a lot of musical acts that try their hand at a throw-back style of music. Those who try to invoke the soul of the late 60s and early 70s often find themselves relegated to playing weddings as a mediocre cover band. It takes a certain kind of spirit to perform that kind of music to a modern crowd and have it connect with an audience. Old souls like the late Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones, or the reinvigorated Mavis Staples, have it in their souls. New souls like St. Paul and The Broken Bones and Leon Bridges (who is actually leaning to a more contemporary sound with his last album) have been able to invoke that old spirit. Jen Awad is one of those new souls.
On this evening, Jen was celebrating the release of her latest 5 song EP Jewel Of The Nile. The EP is everything that I love about Jen and her music. It’s an old school sound with a modern twist and attitude. Jen’s full alto voice is a powerful instrument that evokes a sense of immediacy, and makes her music so much more present. Think Etta James circa Tell Mama. Of the 5 tracks on Jewel, I’ve got a particular affinity to “Bad People” (man … that hook “Bad people need lovin’ too” sure is catchy) and the passionate torch song “On The Low”.
Backed by a full band that included two back up singers and a 3 piece horn section, Jen brought the music from her EP, plus a handful of fan-favorites, to vibrant life. The full sonic wash of her players coupled with Jen’s undeniable charisma made for an unforgettably lively performance. She had everyone in the audience eating out of the palms of her gloved hands for the duration of the set, and when all was said and done, everyone’s souls was filled with a little extra joy and some of that new soul that Jen was able to spread from the stage.