Philly’s Lushlife brings the heat to Johnny Brenda’s in celebration of his new LP, Ritualize

Lushlife at Johnny Brenda's 2/27/16 | Photo by Matthew Shaver |
Lushlife at Johnny Brenda’s 2/27/16 | Photo by Matthew Shaver |

Lushlife, a.k.a. Raj Haldar (the focus of this past weeks UNLOCKED series), and CSLSX (pronounced casual sex, if you’ve only ever seen it in print), have put together something really special with Ritualize.  CSLSX’s production is bursting at the seams with elements of classic hip-hop, indie rock, and shoegaze.  Let’s call it dream-hop.  Raj’s lyrics are planted firmly in Philadelphia, but peppered with so much more that widens the appeal, and with a flow that recalls the golden era of rap.  Marrying these two together solidifies what will hopefully be a word wide hit, if only on the level that underground albums become world wide hits.  It’s a wholly unique experience that I’ve not heard anything like since DFA produced Automato’s album a decade ago (and that quickly got buried in the underground).

Everything that makes this album work, works equally well on stage.  So, as the sold out crowd piled in to Johnny Brenda’s for their first glimpse of the whole act in the real world, the anticipation was almost too much to bear.  As Raj and crew stepped out on stage, and the first hum of “Burt Reynolds” crashed down upon us and gave way to the rapid fire cadence, the place exploded.  For 8 glorious songs we got a glimpse in to something new, something special, something that Philly can claim as it’s own.  With enough energy and passion to get even the most cynical people in the place reppin’the City Of Brotherly Love.

Lushlife never faltered in his flow for the evening.  Every line was delivered with the emotion it needed, whether that was a quiet look, and an impassioned plea on hands and knees.  I met Raj briefly before the set, and he’s quite a chill dude, someone you might think is on the quiet side.  On stage he explodes with personality, and it’s obvious not only that he loves every moment, but that he loves everyone involved.

While it was all too brief (only 8 of the albums 12 tracks made it in to the set), and some really important songs got skipped (Toynbee Suite is practically begging for an epic live arrangement, c’mon guys!), everything that was laid out was solid gold.  I spoke to a member of CSLSX before the set, and he expressed some nervousness as it was their first time doing all of it live, but you’d be hard pressed to tell.  The band came together impeccably, and the dreamiest of elements in the production were spelled out perfectly.  I hope this takes off, not just for their sake, but for ours, as this is something I’d like to experience again.  Soon.  Please.


Burt Reynolds
This Ecstatic Cult
Body Double
Hong Kong (Lady Of Love)
Totally Mutual Feeling
Integration Loop




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