Tuesday, March 28 2023. Photos and Article by Eliza Mann
In the midst of a solemn week for Denver, several admirable artists journeyed to the city, ready to share their melody with an audience in desperate need of warmth. It may have been difficult to celebrate a night of good music for locals, yet I am certain we will collectively cherish the light of this performance.
The night kicked off with funk in its spirit as a trio called ‘Brainstory’ bounced on stage. While their music could have been a fresh find for first-time fans, the group did a solid job of drawing appeal to their top hits. Their single “Mnemophobia”, in particular, fostered a clear groove on the dance floor. Though they have been creating for nearly ten years this appears to be their first tour stop in Denver. Considering the trendy pairing of psych-funk and breweries, it is likely we will see them here again.
After some time the music paused, allowing people to mingle in the mix of Marquis Theater’s quaint gathering. A small child crouched in the front row; satisfied by a pair of headphones, Paw Patrol, and some white-puffed cheetos. A “lover of music’ as his mother explained, he seemed to represent the serenity we crave in turbulent times.
Naturally, I had to station my camera beside this unique vantage point.
The lights dimmed and one by one the members of Brainstorm returned to stage following the two individuals playing for Ms Wray. Both independent artists: Lola Adanna’s vocals, and JT Williams on the keyboard complemented the star of the show.
A suspenseful pause built excitement before the Lady herself graced us with a vibrant ensemble. Following their opening rendition, “Piece of Me”, the 25-year-entertainer admitted that their trip to Denver had been strenuous. As is to be expected on the final stretch of a national tour, fatigue had set in. Evenso, she surprised the house with over an hour of continuous energy and youthful spirit.
Their setlist tied singles from the 2022 Piece of Me album with timeless hits like “Make it Hot” which skyrocketed her to fame. Her essence was mystifying, and after collaborating with some of the most powerful 90s-era R&B singers she has mastered the ability to subtly demand attentiveness.
You may be wondering, “so what do three dudes* from California have in common with an OG R&B artist who began her career on stage with Missy Elliot?”
plural noun: a man; a guy
- One doppelgänger of a young John Lennon, his brother and their friend/drummer, Eric.
- Three raw, sensitive bros from California.
The answer is quite a bit, actually.
They each belong to the Big Crown Records Label of Brooklyn and draw heavy influence from roots in California. Brainstorm encourages messages of love, friendship and positivity through a self proclaimed blend of psyche-rock and Jazzy R&B from the 70s. Wray & her crew aligned with the loving force behind brainstory, although the broad genre description may have been somewhat misleading. From my perspective, their psyche-rock laid the stage for the R&B/soul singles Lady Wray has written.
Then again, Jazz is “about making something familiar- a familiar song- into something fresh. And about making something shared- a tune that everyone knows- into something personal”, I suppose their music could be considered Jazzy. According to their bio on Spotify, an objective of their first EP was to “take our songs and expand them, improvise, weld jazz onto them. We wanted to trick people into listening to jazz, basically.” Influences aside, Jazz critics may have wanted more brass from the Brainstory.
If they wanted to hear an original source of the music through its ability to express a dramatic range of emotions, Lady Wray met the demands. Both groups imprinted an individualized interpretation of music onto the audience regardless of its form.
A final note from Lady Wray to the city of Denver and their unsettled residents is ”when one door closes another door opens. Never lose hope, remain bold and stay grateful”. From the voice of one I can say we are grateful for her presence, and the hope she inspired tonight.
National Museum of American Histories
Lady Wray: @Ladynicolewray
Lola Adanna: @lola.adanna
JT Williams: @jaytee_w