M.I.A. and Jamie xx Give All My Friends Something To Remember Female Empowerment and Seamless Mixes Highlight Gary Richard's AMF Music Festival
LOS ANGELES, CA- Day two at All My Friends featured some amazing performances from both rising talent and established artists. With set-times overlapping, it was impossible to catch every one but the select artists that we were able to catch provided some glorious sonics that was able to get bodies grooving and shaking throughout the day to bass drops and hypnotic beats.
The first act we were able to catch was Lupe Fuentes. Her techno driven house music was infectious, and if her skills on the ones and two couldn’t get you to shuffle your feet to the beat, her dancers, strutting their stuff across the the stage’s monitors, did.
In a prior life, she worked as an actress in the adult entertainment industry, but she’s clearly moved on with her life, working hard to create infectious jams to move the masses with her sound. For the past 5 years or so, she has been dropping music at a break-neck pace, her most recent single being a remix of Snap!’s “The Power”, which was a banger back in the day, and still gets the adrenaline moving through my veins, especially with her dynamic instrumentation.
A mainstay on the club scene, and managing her own record label (In The Loop), it seems clear that Lupe will be making booties shake on the dance floor for years to come.
Hailing from Atlanta, Abra was the next act we were able to catch. I’ve been on keen to catch Abra live as her mysteriously downtempo R&B has always made me do a second take whenever he song popped up randomly on a Spotify playlist I happened to be listening to during work.
I think her performance could have benefited from an evening slot (or an indoor stage) insofar as a “darker” setting could have accentuated the mood of her heavier sound- she’s been dubbed the “Darkwave Duchess” after all- but I was pleased with what I heard and saw. It was “bedroom pop” at it’s core; moody and sensual. Her R&B imbued music seemed genuine and personal, and undulated with its love bass lines.
I had heard a lot about her getting her noticed initially on Youtube with acoustic covers of hit songs and I was kind of hoping that she could have performed a song stripped down which I think could have added another dimension to her festival performance, but perhaps that’ll have to wait another time.
For those hip-hop heads attending the festival, the musical options were thinned out a bit with Yo Gotti pulling out of the line-up at the last minute. Thankfully, Khadimou Fall p/k/a “Sheck Wes”, picked up some of the slack.
This Harlem based rapper has been making a name for himself since getting signed to Travis Scott’s (Cactus Jack) and Kanye West’s (G.O.O.D.) joint venture dropping the 60MM+ times streamed heavy banger of a track “Mo Bamba”. What stood out about the track was the fact that Sheck West keeps his raps 100. In the age of autotune, his raw, unenhanced delivery is a breath of fresh air.
With only a handful of songs released publicly, his set was, as expected, short, but he put on a lyrical display that proves that this young man (20 years old at the time of this article), has all of the potential to keep dropping some realness into our ears. And with the support of his co-signs, we’ll hopefully get some more of the “realness” real soon.
Ravyn Lenae’s has always intrigued me. When I first heard her single “Sticky”, I delved into her 3 EP repertoire and found myself reminded of the eccentric musicality of Res with a bit more R&B sprinkled throughout.
At only 19 years old, this Chicago based artist she gave a polished 20 minutes performance, engaging the audience with her independent, girlish charm, even if she was singing about female empowerment or broken relationships.
Her latest EP, Crush, was produced by The Internet’s Steve Lacy, and I was kind hoping that he’d show up on stage to rip a little guitar lick here and there (and I’m sure the AMF audience would have eaten a drop-in up), but that didn’t happen.
What makes Ravyn intriguing to me is how sophisticated her music is despite her being so young. I think a lot of that has to do with the producers that she has worked with, and I can only imagine who’ll tap her should next for the next step of her musical evolution.
If you couldn’t work up a sweat during Armand Van Helden’s AMF set, then I think you just should have stayed home. Armand is a legend on the club/dance circuit, dropping hypnotic house beats sing the late 80s, while also producing bangers with acts like Dizzee Rascal (“Bonkers”) and A-Trak as Duck Sauce (“Barbara Streisand”).
Armand has been in high demand as a remixer, remixing tracks for artists like Sam Smith, Madonna and Disclosure, so there no getting around the fact that you’d be been listening to his music in some way, shape or form throughout your life.
With such a vast repertoire to pull from, there was no way to avoid people dancing with smiles on their face during his set.
One of the most impressive non-main stage crowds that I saw at AMF was the gathering that made their way to Anna Lunoe’s hour long performance in the Friendzone. People packed the alley way at the ROW DTLA to bounce to Anna’s dance-oriented, electronic pop sonics. Bodies were moving uncontrollably throughout the set, which is testament to how infectious Anna’s production/DJ skills are.
I was hoping that she’d sing a handful of her song (as she’s a DJ who can also sing), but I didn’t notice that happening. This was a DJ set meant to have the audience shaking their tail-feathers, and by all accounts I think that the crowd was fine with that.
One of the most anticipated performances of the day was that from the inimitable M.I.A. With a new documentary under her belt, “Matangi Maya M.I.A” (which is currently in theaters as of the date of this post), her performance opened with a preview of her film. Once the trailer played, twice, M.I.A took the stage accompanied by two back-up dancers and a DJ and gave a performance that she acknowledged was for all of the girls in attendance. She emphasized this directive by performing songs like “Bad Girls”, and even inviting a swarm of women to join her to dance on stage for “Boyz”.
Her performance was going relatively smoothly until “Pull Up The People”, when M.I.A. noticed that the vocals and track were mixed correctly, interfering with her vocal performance. M.I.A. was visibly upset, expressed her displeasure on stage. The sound issues weren’t resolved, and it all came to a head when her biggest hit, “Paper Planes”, was being performed.
In my humble opinion, whoever ran sound for M.I.A.’s performance wasn’t doing their job that well. I always wear my earplugs, but I actually took them out midway through M.I.A.’s performance because it didn’t sound loud enough. Obviously, I wasn’t the only one who noticed the sonic deficiency as M.I.A. herself started and stopped the performance of “Paper Planes” three times until the sound techs made it louder. Noise ordinance or not, M.I.A. wasn’t going to let her biggest song be toned down, and I- as fan- truly appreciated that, regardless of the stoppage of the performance.
Working without his established, award winning group the xx, James Thomas Smith p/k/a “Jamie xx” has carved out a rather impressive solo career spinning record and producing for others.
Known for giving music, preexisting or not, an atmospheric, almost haunting quality, Jamie xx’s AMF set seemed to embody that ethos. With a fog machine drenching the stage with a thick mist, Jamie opened his set with a noble tribute to the late Aretha Franklin. The name of the song escapes me at the moment, but for all of those in the know, it was truly a special moment.
Jamie xx’s performance at AMF was the first time I’ve caught the artist spinning records (and he actually spins REAL vinyl records), and what I took away from the performance was that he truly has breath of knowledge in music of all genres. The tribute to Aretha was one thing, but I could hear throughout his performance familiar snippets and hints of both modern songs and classic gems that other DJs couldn’t possibly fit together. Jamie xx breathes life into the music that he plays, and that life is sparked with not only the selections he chosoes, but the way in which he’s able to seamlessly mix them all together.