Musicians By Day, Moonchild By Night; Soul Overtakes The El Rey THOUGHTS+PHOTOS: MOONCHILD @ THE EL REY 4/26/18
LOS ANGELES, CA- Moonchild is a Jazz trio who met studying music at USC. Amber Navran, is the lead singer, flute and sax player. The two guys, Max Bryk and Andris Mattson, both on keyboard also leverage sax and trumpet, complete the package, and that package is Moonchild. For this tour, Bianca Richardson joins Moonchild on the drums. Moonchild’s sound is an eclectic mix jazz, soul and R&B. If you aren’t keen on it, their their new album, “Voyager” was released last year and it’s smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy. Yeah, I said it. They dive deep and fluent into African American neo-soul sonics, and to be painfully honest, I was surprised because they are founding members are … well … caucasian.
Moonchild approaches the stage and is met with an audible wave of love and support from the audience. These guys go straight for the instruments and start groovin’. The band members are all smiles with happy feet, having their musical notes dance alongside them. The audience instantly follows suit, and pretty soon the whole venue is bopping and swaying to their first song, “The List”.
Amber’s vocals remind me of a cross between Norah Jones and Dido with a softer, lighter spin, while the band plays what sounds like Jill Scott/RoberGlasper influenced music, tempo and timbre. Amber sings every song with imbued passion, paralleled by the way her band mates play their instruments. They switch over, and begin to play “Winter Breeze”. They intro the cut with a jam session to which everyone dances and sways to before Amber jumps in with her vocals. Halfway through, the guys throw in keyboard twangs that thrusts the audience deeper into an already deep groove.
The crowd applauds craving more, and more.
The show shifts when Bianca switches her drum sticks, and Amber grabs her flute. The crowd cheers on as we clearly see the immense talent every band member exudes. The boys join in later by shifting over to the sax and trumpet. This is a soft, and silky groove with the floating resonance of chimes giving me a melodic feeling of drifting through space.
Each track flowed smoothly and soulfully into their next and the audience can’t get enough. Couples are embracing and swaying behind me, fans at the front are singing along to every word, and groups of friends are shouting from my left, “YOU’RE SO GOOD!”, and from my right “WE LOVE YOU!” Amber picks up on this bouncy energy, and is quick to lock eyes with one of these audience members. Amber points her out in the crowd, and they begin to sing to each other. I feel nothing but good vibes and love throughout the venue and the entire show. You can’t help but feel the mutual love and respect the audience and band have for each other. Amber finishes off with a few high notes to which the audience tries to match with their screams and shouts of approval.
Moonchild stops playing here to have a moment to speak on social justice. Fully aware of their music genre, where it came from, and who invented it, Amber takes the vibe to a more serious tone. They take time to respect African Americans by calling out their own white privilege, and to discuss Black Lives Matter, along with various other African American social justice groups that we can donate to, including the ACLU and Black Trans Liberation. Amber’s impassioned presentation emphasized the very clear need that we all must do our part to help those in financial struggles so that we may all, together, build a strong, bright, and equal future- one that does NOT discriminate.
I already appreciated the music this band was putting out, but now they have my full attention and respect. I’m careful to discuss this, being a privileged white woman myself, and not wanting to say or do the wrong thing due to the fact that I’m still learning what it means to be an ally. But I will say that this was an important and necessary moment for all white people in attendance to stay woke, and to be mindful, giving, and respectful to our African American counterparts who were brutally forced to build this country by the sweat off their backs, gifting us with their presence, music, knowledge and culture. Not so that we may appropriate, but so that we may witness, appreciate, and take part. This pause taken to enlighten the audience was not derived from a “Superhero Complex”, but merely one intended to give and receive love, regardless of race. With that, I think that’s something everyone can get on board with.
Moonchild picks right back up with Amber and Max throwing down an inspired “Think Back”. The energy bursts from the crowd, and we’re back in full swing of moving and grooving. The crowd erupts when Moonchild shifts to play a “A Long Walk” by Jill Scott- certainly one of their musical influencers. It’s a beautiful rendition. They carry on to play their last song of the night, “Cure”, to which not a single person in the audience didn’t sing along. At one point, Amber stops singing, and leaves it up to the crowd to carry us through. It sounds like a choir, and suddenly I feel like I’m at Church. It’s a tremendous feeling to share that moment with a bunch of strangers, like we’re all piece of the same puzzle. They invite us a meet and greet after their show, and leave the stage.
Of course, the second Moonchild gets off the stage, the crowd unanimously and collectively chants for an encore. Andris runs back on stage to inquire if we want one more song. The crowd screams in affirmation. Then, he asks, “How about two more songs”? The crowd, even louder, demands more. The trio, sans Bianca, takes the stage. They carry on with one of their slower, sweeter songs, “What Shall We Do”, to which Max plays a beautiful sax solo. The audience loves it. Bianca joins the group, and they finish off with “Don’t Wake Me”, and have a huge breakdown of a drum solo, saxes and trumpet to close out the night. A huge musical bash, bringing everyone together. Needless to say, it left everyone completely satisfied, and overjoyed at the performance. No one wanted it to end.
— Emilie (@EMSVEN13) April 27, 2018
— Emilie (@EMSVEN13) April 27, 2018