Mikky Ekko seems to be the opener for musical acts just on the peripheral of mainstream, having been the opening performance for Alt-J, BØRNS, and now A R I Z O N A – dissimilar groups each with their own distinct brand of indie. But Mikky Ekko has a voice that chameleons into genres, his set list being a little bit of electronic rock, a little bit of retro vibes, some hip-hop and R&B. It’s a lot, but it’s still self-assured. Not perfect, but that’s almost the point, as he re-iterates throughout the concert that his newest album, Fame, will be an exploration of who he really is.
Most of his songs roll like thunder with an electric touch, deep reverberations, no shyness with the use of instrumentation, amplifiers, percussion, and synth. Despite the strong tempo and speed, and a slight chaotic undertone in the layers of sound – it’s sort of relaxing, almost meditative. It’s a kind of specific headspace, a soothing power in the near-overwhelming magnitude that some of his songs climax towards. Listening to songs like “What’s it Like Now” and “Light the Way” are notably different experiences live. There’s a harder edge sharpened to it, a lot purer and more primitive, exhibiting a raw strength. If accidentally singing so hard that an expensive bracelet gets smashed off his wrist isn’t a testament to the intensity of his performance, then really what is.
Closing with a solo rendition of “Stay,” the power in his voice also sweetens well, having the ability to cool into more delicate tones, to become tender and rich with great melancholy. With an impressive flexibility and stunning vocals, Mikky Ekko’s new album, dropping November 2nd, is worth giving a listen to.
Electric Guest followed, with the very charismatic Asa Taccone rolling up with a dreamy electro-pop vibe. It’s stuff you skateboard down the streets of suburban L.A. in the summer to – a bit nostalgic, it feels effortless, light and airy despite strong instrumentation and the disses they’re throwing out to their critics in “Zero” or whatever sinful hell “Oh Devil” serenades us about. It’s multi-faceted; Electric Guest has playfully clever song writing and an almost sunny feel – fitting since their album Plural is an emergence from hibernation from the much earlier, more tepidly received Mondo.
They performed well live, energetic yet laid back, with a natural stage confidence and no shakiness. Some of the particular atmospheres, the slight nuances of their songs were a bit lost to the size of the auditorium, lacking in the exactness of the feel of the studio version. Still, Electric Guest is a good time, tremendously easy to listen to with an instinctive grab of attention and measured, evenly handled talent. More than a year after the release of their sophomore album, they continue to impress and prove their longevity.
In the final hour, A R I Z O N A came on stage, with the auditorium properly filling in to come see the New Jersey electropop band. While they were certainly the headliner, I think I preferred Mikky Ekko and Electric Guest, despite having listened to probably more of A R I Z O N A’s discography previously. Not to say that A R I Z O N A wasn’t good, just that they have a less distinct musical style, less surprising and more properly pop-y. The kind of ambiance that some of their recorded songs have didn’t always translate live.
Nevertheless, the rendition of “Oceans Away” was memorably beautiful, well-paced and gorgeous – a really nice slower song that I found to be more pleasant than their upbeat hits. Zachary Charles has a beautiful voice, and it’s undeniable that A R I Z O N A has a compelling stage presence. Especially on a Halloween weekend night in a college town and with added sound issues, A R I Z O N A has proven to have the kind of energy and appeal that’s magnetic anyways, a definite force that overcomes any hurdle.
The three acts had a lot to offer, diverse but cohesively put together as one show. Be sure to check them out individually below: