Jhené Aiko mused early in her set that she was only going to play Red Bull Sound Select’s #30DaysInLA festival if she could bring her living room. Aiko either did exactly that, or built a similarly intimate vibe with couches, chairs, candles and friends chilling and texting.
Despite the onstage closeness, Aiko’s Monday night set at Hollywood’s Avalon was anything but stripped down. Between the backing by a live band complete with strings and an assortment of collaborating guests, Guestchella came five months ahead of schedule.
Early in her set, Aiko warned the aforementioned onstage friends to not have sex onstage, but later introduced her first guest by musing ” You guys didn’t have sex, did you? Speaking of sex…” before referencing the group she started. Big Sean then appeared for a steamy pair of tracks from their collaborative Twenty88 project. In response, the crowd screamed, squealed and grooved in equal measure.
During Big Sean’s time onstage, Aiko gave her guests the okay to have sex onstage. They didn’t, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some enterprising couple in the balcony went for it. No, really. I’ve seen it at far less sultry gigs.
Near the end of the hour-long set, Vince Staples joined Aiko for a crowd-pleasing duet of “Lemme Know.” As if the evening weren’t star studded enough, none other than Chris Brown took the stage and drew the loudest cheers (and some tears) of the night for “Drunk Texting” and “Post to Be.”
Despite the guest appearances, the night belonged to Aiko, who cemented her status as one of R&B’s leading passionate, intimate voices and a compelling stage presence to match. Following the evening’s penultimate number “The Worst,” Aiko asked “Did I touch your soul tonight?” Judging by the rapturous response and the blissful phone-and-lighter-waving encore “One Love,” she did.
Once upon a time, the soulful pipes of Eryn Allen Kane drew the attention of Prince. His Royal Purpleness recruited her to sing on “Baltimore,” a tribute to police brutality victim Freddie Gray. Onstage at the Avalon, the vocal powerhouse left the crowd howled in delight with a look of pure awestruck on their faces after just two songs. By the end of an oh-so-brief set, Kane had the crowd crouching and singing along by command.
Swedish-based, Somali artist Cherrie opened the night with another strong showing, as well as an important message. Prior to a song that the R&B singer-songwriter prefaced with an acknowledgement that the crowd wouldn’t know the words, she shared a backstory detailing a friend in a bad situation needing to leave a fuckboi. Being unable to translate the words didn’t matter, though, because as Cherrie said, “music is the universal language.”
Words and photos courtesy of Frank Mojica