Last night, musician Sarah Jaffe treated a select group of about 80 people to a first listen of her new album, Bad Baby, in full and ahead of its release July 7. Radio station KXT, Kirtland Records and Jaffe, who was present but did not perform, co-hosted the free, invite-only event from 8 to 10 p.m. in the upstairs ballroom at Sons of Hermann Hall in Deep Ellum.
After presenting their tickets at the door, guests entered a room that felt much like being underwater, with blue velvet curtains shrouding the windows and deep blue lights shining up on the walls. A projection of Jaffe’s name, in large phantasmal white letters, glowed from each wall opposite the entrance. String lights dripped from the wall around the stage; and from the ceiling, lit purple in the middle and bleeding out to green and blue, a disco ball shimmered.
“I have to Snapchat this!” one woman exclaimed, whipping out her iPhone.
The older guests, comprising mostly thirty- and forty-somethings, mingled around the cash bar and sat in the assorted straight-backed chairs that were set up along the room’s perimeter. Meanwhile, most of the twenty-somethings gravitated toward the bean bag chairs in gumball colors that
were strewn across rugs in the center of the room, draping their arms around each other as they settled in.
Around 8:30, KXT host Gini Moscorro stepped to the lip of the stage to introduce Jaffe, and informed the crowd that they’d be hearing Bad Baby “before NPR First Listen does.” Jaffe, who’d been floating around the room since the doors opened at 8, took the mic next. She briefly described her experience of recording the album in October at The Echo Lab in Argyle, Texas, with her co-producers — also in attendance — and asked them to stand for applause.
“Don’t bootleg my shit!” Jaffe reminded the audience playfully; and over the loudspeakers, Bad Baby began.
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For 13 tracks and about 40 minutes, the audience listened. By 8:45 all of the chairs were filled, and a throng of people stood in the back. On the bean bags, most were quiet. Some engaged in light conversation. Couples kissed. The music, pensive electro-pop in the vein of Jaffe’s 2014 full-length, Don’t Disconnect, burbled and fizzed and pulsed. For the album’s latter half, Jaffe stood still on the left side of the room, arms folded, looking down. The end of each song was met with enthusiastic applause.
The record ended around 9:30. Jaffe, to a standing ovation, thanked the crowd, her manager Tami Thomsen and her producers again. “To Matt and Scott and Don,” she said, “I can’t imagine making this record with anyone else now, and I just love you guys so much.” At this, she got a little choked up.
“I’m starting to feel it in my throat,” she said, her voice cracking. “I love you all.”
After wishing everyone a good night, Jaffe slipped off to the side, where a line formed to meet her. Guests picked up the posters on their way out, and some asked Jaffe to sign them. Others posed with her for pictures. And as the crowd poured out into Elm Street, the music and the experience, extolled by individuals in reverential tones, seemed to buoy them along.