Saturday night’s lineup at Irving Plaza was nothing short of an assault on your sense of hearing, as both Eskimeaux and WHY? performed shrouded in pockets of darkness and subdued hues of red, blue and green. The Brooklyn based Eskimeaux is the project of Gabrielle Smith who held down lead vocal duties as well as guitar. Taking the moniker at an early age, she felt the name most represented her heritage and acts as her own empowered persona. Oliver Kalb, Felix Walworth and Jack Greenleaf rounded out the four-piece band, as their ethereal soundscape filled the room. Since this performance, however, Gabrielle has decided to change the band’s name to simply Ó, in a move to remove any connotation or negative feelings toward “Eskimo.”
Taking the stage next, the 4 members of WHY? settled into their places onstage. Each one was lit by individual light bulbs that would illuminate at various points during the night to help punctuate the ebbs and swells of the music. Jonathan Wolf wasted zero time settling into delivering his raps over the eclectic and downright interesting instrumentation that leans more toward folk/rock than hip hop.
Throughout the night, they let the music speak for itself, and the crowd, who was more than familiar with their work, didn’t need to see each band member’s face in order to feel the music and its message. While the band rarely moved from their places, Jonathan did find his way out from behind the keys to take to the middle of the stage to showcase his guitar skills for a bit. Their setlist includes “These Hands,” “January February March,” “White English,” “The Water,” and during the encore, “The Hollows” made an appearance to the delight of the captivated crowd.
While their sound fluctuates from hip hop, to psychedelia, to folk, they remain a band that is increasingly difficult to categorize, and in WHY?’s case, that’s a great thing. Their sound is wholly unique and endlessly interesting, and having just released their 5th studio album, Moh Lhean, I’m excited to see they have no intention on changing their formula any time soon.
Article: Lesley Keller