CONCERT REVIEW: Leon Bridges @ LA's Greek Theatre

By Jessica Klausing

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The Los Angeles stars shined bright for Leon Bridges on his Good Thing tour stop at the Greek Theatre. Bridges brings to life a carefree nostalgic vibe with his 60’s inspired R&B grooves, soothing soulful voice, elegant ‘classic man’ apparel, and romanticized storytelling. The sold out crowd were in for quite a treat.

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Leon Bridges offers exclusive Meet n’ Greet packages for his tour stops. They are truly one of a kind. I have had the opportunity to participate in several VIP experiences for different artists and I must say Leon’s is by far my favorite! Here is my review of the VIP experience.

VIP check in. Photo by Jessica Klausing.

VIP check in. Photo by Jessica Klausing.

My instructions were to arrive for check in at 4:00P on the dot. The VIP tent and check in stations were set up in the employee parking lot behind the Greek Theatre. I had an easy check in even though a staff member almost forgot to give me my meet n’ greet pass. After that I made sure to double check to ensure all items were in my swag bag.

The VIP bag came with a signed Good Thing tour poster, 4 postcards of Leon, and a Good Thing album vinyl record cover. Super cool! They had a special merch booth set up for VIP members. I took a few minutes to browse the various tour t-shirts and posters until the lounge opened.

The VIP tent lounge. Photo by Jessica Klausing.

The VIP tent lounge. Photo by Jessica Klausing.

About thirty minutes or so after check in, we were allowed to enter our VIP lounge to chill until it was time for soundcheck and meet n’ greet. At first glance the tent does not look that great but it’s much more cooler inside.

Inside the VIP lounge. Photo by Jessica Klausing.

Inside the VIP lounge. Photo by Jessica Klausing.

Once inside this place was transformed into a swanky little nightclub. There were two bars on opposite ends, a retro vinyl record listening station, a guitar playing station, and cozy inflatable couches to lounge on. Definitely quite the little set up!

VIP listening booth. Photo by Jessica Klausing.

VIP listening booth. Photo by Jessica Klausing.

The listening booth was my favorite lounge perk! I loved how they turned the equipment cases into a book shelf decked out in retro posters, music books, and a generous record collection to sample. Leon’s crew can be my personal interior designers any day! The record collection had everything from Billie Holiday to The Temptations. It was pretty cool getting to listen to many of Leon’s musical inspirations behind his own retro-soul brand.

VIP record collections. Photo by Jessica Klausing.

VIP record collections. Photo by Jessica Klausing.

The next cool lounge perk was the guitar station. We were told this was actually one of Leon’s guitars. Kudos to Leon for allowing a bunch of strangers to pick up and play his guitar. Next to the guitar was a music stand with the sheet music for Leon’s song, “River” if you wanted to learn how to play it.

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Around 5PM, we were called to line up at the front gate for Leon’s soundcheck. We were invited in to watch the last two songs of the soundtrack. The crew strictly informed us that we were not allowed to take pictures or videos of the soundtrack. Unfortunately, I have no photos to share but just getting to see and hear Leon perform his songs up close was something so magical that not even a recording could capture.

My rockstar pose on the Greek Theatre stage.

My rockstar pose on the Greek Theatre stage.

After soundtrack we were lead to line up backstage. I figured that we were going to get to meet Leon and get our photos taken with him onstage. Super cool! However, this was not the case. We were given the opportunity to pose individually onstage. Still cool! The Greek Theatre is one of my favorite outdoor amphitheaters. From the audience’s point of view, it’s quite a breathtaking sight to see the endless sea of green trees behind the stage. Getting to see from the artist’s point of view was a unique experience. I prefer to see the artist and the trees but I’m sure it’s more breathtaking at night.

Meeting Leon Bridges.

Meeting Leon Bridges.

After the stage photos, we were told that Leon had his crew set up the meet n’ greets in his dressing room backstage! I thought it was really nice of Leon to invite his fans backstage with him. We got a little mini tour of the backstage area on the way to the dressing rooms. I didn’t get any backstage photos because I was not sure if it was allowed. I will say the backstage is not as glamorous as you think. It was quite barren with white cement walls. It reminded me more of a high school gym locker room to be honest.

Leon awaited us against the Good Thing tour backdrop in the dressing room. As we waited in line, several of us fans chatted excitedly about the first time we heard Leon’s music. The most beautiful thing about these VIP meet n’ greet experiences is being able to share the love of music with other like-minded fans.

Leon is such a gentleman! He was very sweet and gave lots of hugs. I liked how this experience did not feel rushed. It was truly genuine. We knew we were on a limited time frame but not once did an usher try to ‘hurry us’ through our photo with Leon. Thank you CID Entertainment! I wish more VIP experience companies would follow your lead.

I’m not sure if all of Leon’s VIP experiences are set up exactly that this LA one in particular, but if you get the chance, I would highly recommend it.

SONG REVIEW: Yona Marie - "My Soulful Baby"

By Wanda Whitley

Yona Marie.

Yona Marie.

Okay, folks.  First, I cannot tell you how relaxed and chill I am right now.  Listening to Yona Marie’s new single, "My Soulful Baby" has de-stressed me (can I say to the max)? 

In 2010, R&B artist Rachel Marie Moore AKA Yona Marie first gained mainstream popularity by releasing 'The Luv Exposure' featuring artists, producers, and singers from all over the world. The lead single was featured on a Majormix release which included Chris Brown, Ace Hood, and Tyga.

Marie followed up with the release of "High," a 90's styled instrumental garnering over 100,000 listeners and 20,000 downloads. In 2014, Marie released her full length album, "Reminiscent" which eventually led her to collaborate with EDM producer Eli in 2016 to create the viral track, "Just Wanna Love You" which hit over half a millions plays between Spotify, Youtube, and Soundcloud.

Marie's soothing, soulful voice is such a balm to the soul.  And what a song!  With hints of Diana Ross’s voice, and such sensuality flowing from her heart-felt words that I am put into the mind of hearing a female version of some of Barry White’s work, Yona Marie is indeed a multi-talented artist. 

The musical arrangement is very cool and smooth - the keyboards and groovy guitars and the beat just carries "My Soulful Baby" onto the dance floor for a romantic slow dance.  The music to this song, along with the lyrics, takes me back to another time – a time when this world cared a little more and loved a little more. Thanks, Yona Marie, for helping bring us back to this time with your beautiful love song.

SONG REVIEW: Aidan James - "What My Friends Talk About"

Written by Jessica Klausing

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Aidan James shakes up the pop scene with his Hawaiian inspired melodies.

At age 9, James uploaded a Youtube video cover of Train’s “Hey, Soul Sister” while playing a ukulele. The video went viral with over 20 million views inspiring the young Hawaii native to venture into a music career.  In the last couple of years he has released an EP, “Live Again,” and a full-length album, “Echoes.” He has toured with many notable acts such as Train, Jack Johnson, Lisa Loeb, and Michael Bolton. Currently, 16 year old, James has been hard at work to release his new full-length album sometime later this year.

In his new single, “What My Friends Talk About,” James uses his ukulele to the bridge the melody gap between contemporary pop and R&B. Think sound wise similar to Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours.” The ukulele fades as the song progresses into an eclectic fusion of finger-snaps, hand claps, and percussion.

James’ warm vocals evoke a sweet innocence as he admits, “And you know I can’t remember anything before I saw your face.” His versatile talent and individuality shines through on this track. I can’t wait to hear what Aidan James has in store on his new album.

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Kendrick Lamar's DAMN Collector's Edition

Written by Brody Duggson

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When Kendrick Lamar confirmed that DAMN can be played in reverse, I immediately threw “Blood” into Audacity and reversed the soundwave. What came out of my wireless headphones made no sense.

Then I realized Lamar meant “reverse order” not backwards.

In early December of 2017, Lamar released a collector’s edition of his seminal opus, and hopefully soon-to-be winner of the Grammy award for Album of the Year, DAMN.  The edition contains all the songs from DAMN, with no new production, in an order opposite of the original.

Instead of starting with “Blood” and ending with “Duckworth,” the collector’s edition begins with “Duckworth” and concludes with “Blood.”

It may sound like a distinction without a difference, but before it dropped in mid-April, conspiracies swirled that Lamar/DAMN had more to offer.

DAMN was introduced to the world on Good Friday.  One theory said Lamar will release another great album on Easter Sunday.  

A second conspiracy, this one piggybacking on a tweet by TDE producer Soundwav—“But what if I told you... that's not the official version…”—claimed more new material was forthcoming.

A tinfoil-hat-wearing fan theorized that Lamar’s next album would be titled "NATION." This appellation was inspired by acrostics made from some of the last letters of DAMN’s tracks. 

By the way, those phrases were “Earth Led 2 Death” and “Death 4 Leader.”

Many “KenFolk” immediately recognized that the last line of DAMN’s finale, “Duckworth,” is the first line of DAMN’s opener, “Blood.”  Some concluded that those songs were connected, and the tracks in between, are Lamar struggling with a slew of contradictory ideas.

Releasing his masterpiece with a reverse track order may seem a bit underwhelming, but it does satisfy those who believed there was always more to DAMN than originally assumed.

Our cynical side says the collector’s edition is nothing more than a money grab.  After all, the power to listen to DAMN in reverse order is inside of all us.  Well, inside our media players.

There’s reason to applaud Lamar’s efforts.  By releasing his album with a different track order, he forces listeners to accept DAMN as a single work of art and not a collection of interchangeable singles.

There was a time when listening to an album out of its original order meant putting on side B before side A.

Nowadays, it’s a piece of cake to listen to albums out of order.  It’s just as easy to listen to them randomly, as part of a playlist with a bazillion other songs, or piecemeal—just download the songs you like.