It’s somewhat magical that buried in so many corners of Manhattan – often deep downstairs and behind nondescript doors, under layers of fixed-rent apartments, bodegas, dollar slices, and rats – are small stages bathed in clean neon light, glowing expectantly; awaiting an act. On Wednesday night, this was precisely the scene in The Bowery Electric, the small space humming with that perceptible pre-show pulse. The room wasn’t yet full when Kristeen Young found her place onstage, hands hovering above the keys, imminent power chords dripping from her fingertips. But, as seems to be her style, she had a confident response to that on the tip of her tongue. “Only the important people are here,” she purred, rubbing her palms together like a James Bond villain. “Just as I planned it.”
When her dark sound suddenly filled the air – an eruption of violent piano licks and unpredictable vocals, her two-piece band supplying tight drums and growling bass – the place filled up pretty quickly. Looking very NYC-cool in a retro black dress (with a sparkling gold wildcat pouncing across its sleeve), Young showed off her extensive vocal range throughout the tumultuous setlist, which included old favorites like “Pearl of a Girl,” but mostly covered her newest material. Young, who has performed with legends like David Bowie and Morrissey, commanded everyone’s attention with a savage, feral, and almost operatic performance. It was marred only by a brief moment of technical difficulties when her mic stand somehow flew from the stage and clattered to the floor – the perils of rocking too hard, from which she instantly recovered and proceeded to do so.
After a ferocious performance like Young’s, the place was perfectly primed for herMajesty to take the stage – frontman JP joined this time by two powerful backup singers, an excellent addition to his live set. The experience of seeing herMajesty play is wholly unique – vibrant, focused and alive, like a macro image of a leaf; JP’s deliberate vocals like the veins running through it. Every moment he sang – his delivery and timbre highly evocative of David Bowie – it was as if he devoted himself to making eye contact with each fan individually, his gaze conveying whatever his lyrics could not.
The crowd was all in, and herMajesty never once lost their attention, their setlist kicking off with “New Killer Star,” “World Smiles,” and the glitzy ultra-80s throwback that is “Fashion Trance.” Rather daringly, herMajesty brought out perhaps their biggest hit, “Dancing Barefoot,” early on (just five songs in!), but easily maintained their momentum – and had plenty more up their sleeves. Their set surged ahead into “I Saw the Dog,” the brand new single due for release this summer, and finished strong with “One By One,” one of their earliest songs as a band. If there’s any question about the ever-surprising music scene that lurks below NYC, herMajesty is real proof of its power.
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley