While you'd expect a young crowd for most Odd Future shows, Trees was filled on Saturday night with a diverse mix of fans of all ages. Then again, The Internet's Neptunes-influenced, neo-soul tinged, starry eyed R&B is not what you'd normally expect when you think from an off-shoot of a west coast hip hop crew.
One thing was for sure: most of the audience was women. This is customary for most live R&B, but in this case, it was highly attributed to the magnetism of The Internet's androgynous heartthrob front woman, Syd, formerly known as Syd The Kyd. Her sultry and cool charisma was undeniable.
Lead vocalist is a relatively new job description for Syd, who began her career teaching herself to produce and engineer tracks in a home studio she built as a teenager. After evolving into the role of mixing and mastering Odd Future projects and acting as their touring DJ, she wrote the first Internet album with producer Matt Martians. Though they originally planned to release the album for free, with little promotion, the collective's management had bigger plans for the duo. Purple Naked Ladies was released in 2011, pushing Syd from behind the knobs to front and center stage.
When the curtain opened to reveal the band -- with Matt Martians and Tay Walker on keys, "Midtown Pat" on bass, and drummer Christopher Allan Smith -- they stood silently for a few seconds, seeming almost unsure about what to do before starting into a groovy vamp for Syd to walk out to. Slinking forward from the back of the stage in a black hoodie and jeans with no shoes (she always performs in her socks), the crowd cheered for the first time as Syd approached her place at the mic. Though it took a few songs to loosen her up, Syd eventually got comfortable with the adoring crowd. By the time they performed their most popular single, "Dontcha," she hit her stride with her notorious two-step dance moves. She even seductively tugged at her t-shirt at times to reveal her midriff, which was always met with screams from women in the crowd.
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Among the highlights of the set included a lush and gorgeous interpretation of Jamiroquai's "Too Young To Die." Something was a little off-putting, though: Before starting in, she advised the crowd that they likely weren't familiar with the cover they were about to play, verbally patting on the back those who did recognize it. It was a sort of preemptive crowd-shaming, and it came off poorly, with her underestimating their audience's musical depth. Unless you're going really obscure, either mention the original artist or just play the damn song -- otherwise, you're just taking the crowd out of the moment you're trying to create.
As she cooed and crooned on, hips swayed and shoulders swung in time. Twinkly, trilling piano runs, reminiscent of old Barry White records, fluttered over the crowd as patrons' hands rose up over their heads, trying to catch each note like fireflies. The Internet proved again and again their knack for crafting a brand of grown and sexy, quiet storm R&B for the 40-and-under set. Syd's relatable and romantically inclined lyrics can reduce even the least amorous to a case of the fuzzies.
The landscape of R&B is at a very interesting place. While the commercial side continues to leave fans generally underwhelmed with cheesecake content and unimaginative record making, delving deeper into the genre provides fans with a much more creative scene. Artists like Jhene Aiko, Sampha, and Kelela are often called up off the bench to contribute to projects for bigger names like Drake, while their own material is consistently passed over for radio play.
As a part of the Odd Future collective, The Internet is one of the rare R&B acts who have found a way to positively leverage their collaboration capital, build on it, and use it to their own advantage. If you missed them this time around, it's likely you're going to have to brave a bigger room next time Syd, Matt Martians and company come to town.