If the name Kelela sounds slightly familiar, you may have heard her on Teengirl Fantasy‘s recent LP for R&S, Tracer, or Kingdom’s “Bank Head.” Both paint her as a vocalist unfazed by less than traditional productions who’s more than capable of complimenting them. Though she hasn’t released many solo recordings (a mixtape is in the works according to Night Slugs‘ Bok Bok) Kelela can be found supporting underground giants frequently. In an era where the hype machine builds artists up long before they are technically ready for the challenges of performing live, it’s encouraging to see an artist who has not only paid her dues, but who has an artistic voice and stage presence to boot.
Fade To Mind affiliate Total Freedom not only opened the show with a wide array of driving bass-centric beats, he also manned the decks for Kelela’s set. At such an early stage in a career, it’s not unusual for an artists to forgo a backing band and rely mainly on their vocals. It worked for Kelela, as she entranced the small crowd with a voice that sharply contrasted with the visceral instrumentals accompanying her. Due to the Musich Hall Of Williamsburg’s relatively small size, the show felt unusually intimate and Kelela took advantage of that. Throughout her set she toyed with the crowd; audience participation was as much a tool to her as the instrumentals. By her final song she was off the stage and on the dance floor performing in the crowd. Everything appeared to be done with total ease and on Kelela’s own terms— which is a good sign for her solo career.
Photos by Tim Willis.