I had a chance to speak to Dessa before her show at World Cafe Live on Thursday night, and in my moment of terrible small talk, I mentioned how uncomfortable I sometimes feel at venues like the upstairs. It is a stage that is barely elevated, with direct crowd access, and I know I’m blocking people (I’m 6’2”). I always try to be mindful of that, and move off to the side/back after a song or two, to get out of the way. Color me surprised when Dessa stopped the show, after the first song, and, in a moment of professional courtesy, invited me to the stage to capture a photo of her in front of the crowd. It was a small moment, but a gesture that meant a lot to me, as a photographer that has dedicated 10 years and thousands of shows to this, but more importantly, as a fan.
That’s what Dessa does, though. She plays TO fans, not for them. She is the kind of artist that speaks to her audience in a frank manner, as one would with friends. Whether it’s a small apology for a strained voice, or a moment of reflection on the culmination of a years worth of work, Dessa wants you to be there, she wants to play to you. Every ounce of that affection was returned tenfold by the sold out WCL audience, who sang their way through every bit of her catalog as passionately as Dessa herself. She managed to work her way in to the crowd multiple times during the set, ensuring that everyone in the back had their moment to connect as well.
Part poet, part singer, part rapper, Dessa has a unique catalog of carefully crafted songs that cover just about every facet of human emotion possible. Sometimes through fable, often with metaphor, and always with a respect for the listeners intelligence, she breaks as many molds as she fits. Joining her on stage was her long time friend/partner in rhyme (sorry, couldn’t help it) Aby Wolf, who lends a lovely balance to the singier parts of her repertoire.
The backing band also happened to be the opening band. Going by the name MONAKR (which they admitted was spelled as such only because every other spelling was already taken), the fellows from Chicago have their foot firmly planted in the multi-hyphenated electro genre populated with the likes of CHVRCHES and Philly’s own Marian Hill. Comprised of Matthew Santos, Saam Hagshenas, Jonathan Marks, and Daniel Brunelle (who was absent from the tour), they powered through glistening synth based tracks that served as a wave for Santos’s smooth vocals to ride in on. Looking forward to a full length release from them in the near future.
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