El Rey Theatre
Since producer Jae Chong formed Aziatix a year ago, they've been on the cover of Newsweek in South Korea, sold out a 10-city U.S. tour last year, hit No. 1 on Japan's R&B and Soul charts, reached No. 4 on the iTunes R&B and Soul chart and were in two showcases at SXSW. Therefore it was surprising to see the El Rey only about half-full. The fans who were there, however, were true fans, mostly teenage to college-aged girls screaming for the R&B and pop trio made up of Eddie Shin from Boston, Nicky Lee from Los Angeles and Jay “Flowsik” Pak from Queens, NY.
The fun, hour-long set was filled with slick production, poppy tunes, sweet songs about love and solid rap from Flowsik.
Opening act Dawen sang mostly covers from artists Calvin Harris (“Feel So Close”), Flo Rida (“Good Feeling”), Britney Spears (“Till The World Ends”) and fun (“We Are Young”). His strong suits were two original songs “Wake Up” and “Shoes.”
In place of a drummer was his collaborator Vincent Bantasan, a human beatboxer on par with Rahzel, Biz Markie and Doug E. Fresh. Vince beatboxed Reel 2 Real's “I Like to Move It” and the beginning of Robin S's “Show Me Love.” At times sounding like an amplified rattlesnake or a Transformer on crack, he infused dubstep into his work, making the crowd nod their heads.
Dawen's sultry, soulful voice, crooned in the style of Usher about breaking down Asian stereotypes and pursuing dreams. “Yes, I know that my face might be yellow, but that doesn't mean I'll give you SARS,” he sang in “Wake Up.” The hilarious “Shoes” was prefaced by his saying, “It's about to get real serious right now,” then, “This is something that I used to be embarrassed about growing up in Boston,” then, “I'd like to dedicate this song to everyone who takes their shoes off before entering their house.” The song won the Kollaboration Acoustic 4 competition in 2010 and with lyrics like, “Baby won't you take off your shoes, or else I cannot let you through, maybe it's an Asian thing, shoes need to go outside,” it's understandable why Dawen took home the $1,000 prize. He belted out the final “Shoes really go outside” in falsetto with eyes closed and emotion in his voice to a cheering crowd.
Girls jumped up and down and screamed when Aziatix came on with “Lights” (“I like the way you move, your hair, your eyes, your fancy shoes, you're my superstar”). The group worked the audience, sticking the microphone into the crowd so they could belt out choruses, taking pictures of themselves with fans' cameras and touching outstretched arms. “I love you,” said the pale-skinned Eddie Shin, who looks like a prettier version of Rain. “I love you too,” said Nicky Lee, the jokester of the crew. Nicky, with a slight goatee and fedora, wished Flowsik a happy birthday (he turns 27 on April 5).
Flowsik, in sunglasses and a San Francisco Giants cap, freestyled an a cappella version of “Look At Me Now” in Busta Rhymes fashion while Eddie beatboxed a slow rhythm. The crowd roared. Nicky, not to be outdone, asked Eddie to put out a faster beat, then spit gibberish, to laughter from the audience.
Veins popped out of the right side of Flowsik's neck while he rapped, “Look, I'm wide open so just pass me the rock so I can catch this break, Then meditate and demonstrate on gettin' this cake,” from “A Game.” After “Say Yeah,” the group wiped their sweat off with black towels. Standing off to the side, Eddie wiped his face down, then gently wiped Flowsik's neck with the same towel. Flowsik grabbed the towel and swiped his own face before asking, “You want it back?” Eddie took it and finished wiping the rest of his own face. It was a cute moment that showed the closeness of the group. Nicky threw his towel into the crowd and girls fought for the souvenir. As Aziatix prepared for their last song, “Go,” someone screamed, “Don't go! We love you!”
Personal Bias: Jae Chong was a member of old school Korean R&B group SOLID. I listened to them on my Walkman daily while taking the bus to high school.
The Crowd: Girls, the occasional boyfriend who was dragged there and moms and dads whose daughters were too young to go by themselves.
Random Notebook Dump: Moms dancing fervently to boy bands make me strangely happy.
Set list below:
A cappella “Look at me now”
Be with you
Nothing compares to you