Communion Club nights in New York are back in full force for 2015. The first club night of the month was held last Tuesday and showcased a series of talented artists between the three stages at Rockwood Music Hall. Live music was provided by Great, Good, Fine, Ok, The Ludlow Thieves, Kristin Diable, Gabriel Garzon-Montano, White Violet, Semicircle, Ayo Awosika, 5J Barrow, Parlour Tricks, Kayleigh Goldsworthy, and Michael Daves. DJ sets form The Big P.A. and Mike Spinella filled the room during the stag breakdown and set up of the artists.
The first act I caught was Gabriel Garzon-Montano. He sat calmly behind his keyboards, chatting with his drummer between songs and trying to get just the right balance of keyboards and vocals. Those vocals he was so careful about were some of the smoothest I’ve ever heard. They floated out of Montano’s mouth with such ease. The tone of voice and high notes Montano is capable of hitting reminded me of Frankie Valli in his heyday. His sound is quite different from the doo-wop hits of Valli, but he could have been a voice over for Valli if need be. Montano’s mixture of blues, R&B, and hip-hop with classical influences give off bursts of tantalizing energy. Having just come off a fall tour with Lenny Kravitz, Montano continues spreading his neo-soul throughout the tri-state area with a performance as unique as his voice.
On stage three, the second artist to perform was Kayleigh Goldsworthy. The stage was located downstairs in Rockwood Music Hall and had the feel of a speakeasy. The stage was no more than a foot off the ground and the floor in front was filled with tiny, round-top tables for drinks to be placed on. Two chairs accompanied each table and every chair was full, as was the back area of the room. People crowded around the door trying to see Goldsworthy’s performance, but some had no choice but to exit since it was too crowded. The petite blonde sported a soft, light voice and a full tattoo sleeve on one arm. Though soft, her voice was powerful in telling a story with each song she sang. Goldsworthy’s solo debut Burrower is now available.
Also in the speakeasy, Michael Daves’ was strumming his acoustic guitar and chatting with the audience. You could almost hear a pin drop in the room. The vibe was very different from the upstairs stages. Daves’ bluegrass sound put his audience into a trance as onlookers leaned back in their chairs and took in the calm his songs exuded.
Communion Club Night was the first time I had seen Parlour Tricks live, and now I understand what all the buzz is about. Named New York’s best pop group of 2014 by the Village Voice, Parlour Tricks bring a unique sound that has certainly earned the band that title. The harmonies coupled with coordinated swaying and stepping of the female vocalists reminded me of a soul group while the well blended synth sounds made their tunes more upbeat, and danceable. So many different sounds, beats and movements were happening on stage, it was a treat for all my senses.
The appearance of the vocalists and three men on guitar and drums created an interesting dynamic and visual. Parlour Tricks captivated the audience with its sound and presence. PT played “A Walk in the Park,” “Requiem” and “Love Songs” among others. What came next was a pleasant surprise for most of the audience. PT played their own rad rendition of Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer.” The female vocalists singing the well-known line “I Want to fuck you like an animal” gave a certain sense of empowerment to them. Having never heard it sung by a female, it was shocking for a quick moment, and then awesome for every moment that followed. It wasn’t quite a cover as PT added it’s own lyrics and music to much of the song. If it weren’t for the recognizable bass drum during the chorus, you would have never been able to tell it was “Closer.” The crowd ate it up, Nine Inch Nails fans or not, and rocked out with Parlour Tricks during that last song.
The Ludlow Thieves were one of the last artists to perform at Communion Club Night. The six members casually took the stage in front of a jam-packed room. A full, lavish sound overcame the room as front man Danny Musengo took to the mic. His overpowering vocals could fill a church, which makes sense since gospel music is a huge influence on him. The classic-folk-rock The Ludlow Thieves produce is compelling to say the least. By watching this band, you can tell that there is a strong drive behind them and a desire to create music that makes their audience feel something. It’s difficult for music to evoke feeling from an audience without it evoking a range of emotions from the band producing it. Watching Musengo and his band mates put their heart and soul into their stage performance is indicative of how personal those songs are to them. The Ludlow Thieves music speaks for itself, and loudly.
Semicircle: Georgia band Semicircle picked the right time to come to NY and warm us up with their free-form, experimental music, laden with jangly guitars and punchy synths.
Ayo Awosika: Ayo Awosika wowed the Communion crowd with her soulful voice – both delicate and powerful when needed. She seemed to launch into her songs effortlessly, and had the added bonus of playing with and extremely talented band, and an equally talented backup singer, that joined Ayo for a beautiful song about being a caged bird. She has a way of delivering the lyrics that are so smooth that you can’t help but be moved by it. I was getting a lot of Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway from her, but with an added layer of jazz reminiscent of Billie Holiday. She was great at weaving all her influences into a sound all her own, which was evident on her cover of Sade’s “No Ordinary Love.”
White Violet: Another Georgia band, White Violet graced the crowd with their immersive alternative-rock sound. The crowd formed a semi-circle around the band, while the members stepped down off the stage into the audience to fully immerse themselves within the crowd’s energy.
Candace Lee Camacho: Candace Lee Camacho was a bubble of sunshine from the second I walked into the room. She never stopped smiling for a second and managed to form eye contact with everyone as she sang. Her voice had great range too, and with a mentor like Jon Batiste, she’s primed for lengthy career gracing some of the finest stages. Her drummer donned a rather interesting face-mask, while inventive keys and snappy bass drove the night to further heights. Another treat – rapper 21 Quest graced us all with a few bars to whet our appetite and added an extra layer of excitement to Camacho’s daring performance.
Great Good Fine OK: Donning colorful and sparkly outfits Great Good Fine OK was the last but certainly not the least of the talent that encompassed Communion NY. I had to admit I was a bit unsure of what to think of the band at first, but I was shocked to hear a very strong falsetto from lead singer Jon Sandler, as well as some Michael Jackson-esque dance moves. Soulful crooning overlaid with auto-tuned vocals hit the sweet spot with the crowd, keeping everyone dancing long after midnight.
Article by: Ashley Rodriguez & Lesley Keller
Photos: Lesley Keller