Thursday night, producer Benny Blanco’s label Friends Keep Secrets held a special showcase at the El Rey Theatre. It shined a light on the present and also showed the future is very bright after featuring a slew of performances from Jessie Ware, Cashmere Cat, Ryn Weaver, Tory Lanez and other special drop-ins.
Rising pop star Ryn Weaver made quick fans out of those who hadn’t had a chance to see her perform before. As good as her debut album The Fool was last year, she’s even better as a live act. She kicked off her set with “Promises,” also performing “Pierre” while shouting out that the inspiration for the song was in fact in the audience. The highlight of her performance saw Weaver perform a new song she’s been working on – a stripped-down ballad of sorts that really shined the light on her vocal skills. I could see it pairing nicely with an EDM track in the vein of Calvin Harris and Florence Welch’s “Sweet Nothing.” Weaver closed her set with her calling-card track “OctaHate,” a nice way to kick off the evening.
Up second was Jessie Ware, also performing a bare-bones set. “Wildest Moments” opened up her set, and she also fit in an epic cover of Bobby Caldwell’s classic track “What You Won’t Do For Love.” After her opening song, a man made his way to the front to present her a single rose and she seemed to remember him. She interacted with the crowd often; apparently there were many longtime fans in the audience that have seen her many times. Ware closed with “Say You Love Me.”
Rapper Tory Lanez was scheduled to be next, but the first surprise of the night took place. Francis and the Lights – a New York-based synthpop artist I’ve been into for years and have always wanted to see – took the stage without an introduction and jumped right into a brief three-song run. I didn’t fully recognize Francis Starlite for who he was until he erupted in his signature bad-ass dance moves. The crowd really enjoyed him and I was happy I was able to fill some people around me in on who he was. Hopefully this means new music is on the way.
Tory Lanez came up next. He’s got great stage presence and charisma, but far too often during his set he played hype man and let the track do his singing. He asked the crowd to put their hands up an inordinate amount of times. But he got them going more often than not – mostly when joined on stage by Miguel to duet on “LA Confidential.” Jessie Ware also joined him earlier in the set for a song. At one point in the set he sang a medley of classic songs, including Ginuwine’s “Pony” (in the style of Sisqo). Lanez went into the crowd and stood atop their hands, later surfing around before arriving back on stage.
Cashmere Cat closed the night, taking the stage at around 11:45 PM. His set was bonkers, even some of the night’s performers could be seen standing at the back of the stage wildin’ out. Ryn Weaver in particular seemed very into it. The crowd was equally invigorated, this despite the late in the evening start time. He’s quickly becoming one of the most interesting producers in electronic music. His 30-minute set sent the crowd home happy.
Fans on Thursday got to enjoy an almost mini music festival, seeing five really talented acts over the course of one night – all at an intimate venue in the El Rey. Hopefully this becomes an annual thing, because it was damn sure fun.
Words: Mark E. Ortega
Photography: Danielle Gornbein
WATCH JESSIE WARE AND RYN WEAVER PERFORM AT EL REY BELOW: