Rhye - Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever - 4/1/13
Better than: Most first dates. And also, most second and third dates.
If the glut of modern indie music is the sonic equivalent of a Facebook poke, Rhye is the object of your affection showing up at your doorstep in the rain to tell you how much they love you.
As such, last night's show, presented by KCRW, was an intimate evening in sound and atmosphere, as an attractive crowd assembled in the Masonic Lodge at L.A.'s favorite cemetery concert spot Hollywood Forever. The venue itself, with its dim lighting, pitched ceiling, candelabras, stained glass windows and Masonic motifs, was ideal for absorbing Rhye's stripped down R&B mood music.
The crowd sat for the duration of the show, vibing on Rhye's variably slow and uptempo songs and taking in the group's romance-as-spirituality ethos and singer Mike Milosh's miracle of a voice with hushed reverence.
8:45pm: Outside the venue (in the cemetery), ticketless fans hustle the crowd for any spares, but it's tough going for this much-anticipated show. Inside, the Lodge has the refined feel of an upscale wedding venue, with many glasses of red wine being consumed.
8:50pm: Two man act Rhye has a reputation for not wanting their photo taken. (Most of their press photos feature their faces shrouded in shadow.) Photos at Hollywood Forever shows seem to always be banned. So there you go.
Don't even think about it.
9:00pm: "It was a miracle I got tickets for this show," says an excited woman in line for a bathroom. (They sold out almost immediately after going on sale.) She has brought her mom along as a date. "She says Rhye's singer's voice reminds her of Bronski Beat." Her mom is right.
9:15pm: Low End intellectual Nosaj Thing opens the show with a celestial, cerebral set that begins with the sounds of angels chanting and then builds to an intricately layered wave of sophisticated beats and bass. Nosaj also played before Rhye in January at a Boilerroom show, and although the two acts are perhaps not an obvious double bill, their shared capacity for high level soundscapes make them an inventive and natural pairing.
9:30pm: With the dim red lighting, candlelight and Nosaj's surrealist electronic music, the mood feels like an Anne Rice novel in space. Two guys in the third row are either sleeping or listening to the music with eyes closed appreciation.
9:45pm: Nosaj works in signature jam "Fog" and hovers over his mixer with focused intensity and the agility of an athlete. Anyone who says that electronic artists don't play real instruments would absolutely think otherwise upon seeing the dexterity with which his long fingers manipulate the machine.
9:55pm: The set ends and three people rise for a standing ovation. Two of them are Rhye singer Milosh and his wife, who are sitting in the front row. "To be honest," Nosaj says, "it was a little bit weird playing to everyone sitting down."
10:00pm: The small stage is populated with instruments, a few high backed throne type chairs and three dozen white candles. While Rhye is at its core a duo, Milosh and Danish producer Robin Hannibal, tonight the group is fleshed out as a six-person band featuring a violinist, electric violinist, drummer, singer, bassist and keyboard player. They all assemble onstage and the crowd lets loose a spontaneous cheer as the set is kicked off with a plucked violin solo.
10:05pm: Goosebumps rise with the first note Milosh sings. It's so rare to be excited about a particular voice, but his is smooth and singular and live, as much of an instrument as on the group's recently released debut LP Woman. It's spellbinding singing that oozes meaningful emotion, sounds like Sade and will melt the walls around your heart. "This is going to be a really fun night," he announces. We are officially captivated.
10:15pm: The band is excellent, playing with an impeccable balance of tight musicianship and a sound that still feels loose and improvised, hinting at Milosh's predilection for jazz. The band looks young, and everyone onstage right now is performing with their eyes closed. The violinist has a huge smile on his face.
10:20pm: The vibe for the first few songs is hushed, although the tempo and energy rise quickly with "3 Days" a standout jam from Woman. Everyone in the crowd still sits, rapt, but toes are tapping, heads are bobbing and many an arm is being put around a date.
No not here either
10:25pm: Much has been made about Rhye's music being sensual, or for lovemaking or whatever, and yeah it's definitely both of those things, but it's a lot more than just that simple trick. What's being performed here is high level easy listening smooth soul funk for slow and fast dancing alike. As the set progresses, the energy rises on the power of the bass-laden jazz feel. "We had a crazy SXSW" Milosh says, explaining that he got sick in Austin and hasn't quite fully recovered.
10:28pm: "I'm thinking about doing a whistle solo," Milosh says.
10:35pm: He does the whistle solo, and then the keyboardist turns it into a bit of a whistle duet, which makes everyone laugh.
10:40pm: The electric violinist pulls out a trombone and nails a jazzy solo. It's ridiculously good, and the crowd breaks out into rousing cheers when she finishes. "That was pretty fucking good," Milosh remarks.
10:45pm: A survey of the crowd reveals that many of us have the same dopey grins of appreciation on our faces. The group goes into full-on jam on "Hunger," exacerbating the intimate club feel in the Lodge at the moment. This is Paris in 1920; this is Berlin in 1931. This is Los Angeles in 2013, and it is a privilege to be at this show right now.
10:50pm: "YAAAAYYY" yells a woman at the back of the room as the group winds down.
10:55pm: "Keep going, you guys are awesome," requests a man in the crowd. "But it's a new band," Milosh says, "so we don't have that many songs."
10:56pm: They close the show with "It's Over," a song from Milosh's former solo project. Eventually, everyone onstage stops playing their instrument and they go into a perfect six part harmony that gradually fades to silence. It is an elegant end to an elegant evening.
Personal bias: I would like to get married at the Masonic Lodge and I would like Rhye to play my wedding.
Overheard in the crowd: "The Masons were the O.G. Scientologists."
Random notebook dump: "Intricate, intimate, delicate, lush, memorable, personal, hypnotic."
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