Sonia is the phoenix that has risen out of the ashes of T.T. the Bear’s Place. The venue has a completely different charm to it now – what was once rather dark and dingy has opened itself up to become a warm and welcoming space with unobstructed views from every spot. It is fitting that this space would host a show with rising talent of the highest caliber.
If you’ve talked to me about up-and-coming artists you already know that I’ve been pitching Dounia to anyone who will listen – she exemplifies her generation’s ability to multi-task but also displays mastery and genuine self-expression. If her mononym has a ring of the familiar you probably have encountered her as one of the key models pressing for plus size, intersectional representation in the fashion industry, alongside names like Diana Veras and Barbie Ferreira. Her come-up embodies this desire to rework and bring fresh voice into the establishment; she’s been posting re-workings of popular hip-hop and R&B tracks for years but her first single, “East Coast Hiding,” made audiences acknowledge that she is a force to be reckoned with in her own songwriting. The subsequently released EP Intro To does the same – Dounia is serving up youthful, baddie culture to the nth degree. The confidence she exudes is commendable and it was clear from the crowd that turned up in the freezing cold to Sonia that her message resonates to a wide audience; normally openers don’t have a large portion of the crowd screaming along to every word but the self-love Dounia preaches is packed with cocky attitude and infectious. We can’t all be as cool and collected as Dounia but we can ride or die for the girl who is out there achieving and embodying everything we want to.
This show was rather unassuming on paper – it’s easy for voices not to live up to their recorded sound or for electronic mixes to fall flat in a performance space. It is a testament to the performers, their crew/backup musicians, and the venue that all of these factors were able to combine and create such a monumental sound.
R.LUM.R’s recording production might actually rob you of the depth that comes with seeing him live. Hearing him placed in front of the drums, guitar, backing track, and synth spotlighted his voice in a manner that doesn’t always carry through in his production choices. It’s a pity because Williams has an absolutely beautiful tone – the man doesn’t appear have a vocal bridge. The live setting is where he excels, the night was a testament to undeniable talent or what one particularly enthusiastic audience member shouted, “black boy magic.” Williams’ was unable to resist his roots and busted out his guitar to punch up his live mix to considerable welcome. The barefoot musician was grinning at the reception of the crowd, packed to the brim, and ready to be entranced and, just as importantly, dance.
It was a night of release in the best possible way; there was life teeming from both artists and their performances left the audience feeling empowered and recharged, warming us up for the trek home.
Check out some photos from the night below!