The more shows I go to, the less over time I’ve managed to get to a venue in time for the night’s first opener. On Saturday at the Belasco Theater in downtown LA, I made sure to get there early enough.
Ryn Weaver had moved on from selling out the El Rey just a few months ago to a headlining spot at the Belasco, a sizable venue on a Saturday night in LA. This show had support from HOLYCHILD and ASTR — two acts with considerable promise and reputations as live performers — both for whom I could attest to.
ASTR was the opener. I’d seen this electro-R&B duo on one of last year’s #30DaysInLA bills and later at Hangout Fest this past May. They played a couple of new songs — one awesomely had a sample of an old Ace of Base track that was pretty killer. At the beginning of their set people were still making their way in, but by the end of it the floor was at least full. They meshed pretty well with the crowd that came for the other two acts.
LA’s own HOLYCHILD was another duo, though this one is closer to a traditional sounding one with keys, drums and guitars. On tour they carry an extra member in addition to vocalist Liz Nistico — an edgier Gwen Stefani-type — and multi-instrumentalist Louie Diller.
Nistico’s vocals aren’t a perfect fit for everyone — but the songwriting is deftly provocative and they are a solid draw in their hometown. Nistico always brings it with her stage attire — this time donning a green wig and an outfit that could be classified as a sexy Oompa Loompa. Twice during the performance, Nistico jumped into the crowd and interacted with them — something that would be a theme of the night. At different times, she gave enthusiastic hugs, all while rocking out some of the catchy tunes that have made them one of LA’s biggest up-and-coming acts. She also grabbed someone’s disposable camera and took their picture from up on the stage.
In our interview a few weeks ago, Weaver talked a lot about how fans interact at shows, as well as her attempts to make them as social as possible. Like HOLYCHILD before, Weaver took time througout her set to connect with her audience — from mentioning what she had seen from her fans on Twitter to getting them to turn around and meet each other in between songs.
In a little more than a year, Weaver has grown from inexperienced and nervous to someone who owns the stage 100 percent of her set. She only performed her first shows late last year — making it even more impressive.
During “Stay Low,” Weaver grabbed a fan’s camera and recorded herself singing to it. To the front few rows of the crowd, she gave basically what looked to be photo shoots, getting really up close and personal with them. She also ran all over stage, working up a sweat — all while delivering flawless vocals.
Weaver was genuine in her thanks to the crowd, ironically saying she was “hashtag blessed” in describing the support she’s received in her first full year as a touring musician no longer crashing on couches while trying to make things happen. Her debut album The Fool has been well received, evidenced by the amount of singalongs that took place during her set. “Pierre,” “The Fool” and “Promises” are just three songs that have verses that are mouthfuls and yet a good percentage of the crowd knew every word. Weaver has connected with her largely young twenties and younger audience on multiple levels.
Another thing that makes Weaver stand out is that she doesn’t think of herself as any better than her fans. In our interview, she said she needs them as much as they might need her. Her ability to relate is on a much higher level than when I grew up (Britney and Christina weren’t exactly relatable to teen girls when I was in high school).
When I first saw Weaver at SXSW and Coachella, the crowd was mostly waiting for “OctaHate,” the song that put her at the forefront of the music blogosphere’s mind. Nowadays, there is no lull in enthusiasm from the crowd. She commands the crowd both during the high-energy points and also the emotional and meaningful “Traveling Song.”
When it came time for “OctaHate,” pretty much the entire crowd knew every word. The chorus — which is basically like a musical fireworks show — reminded me of how I’ve somehow seen her nine times and it still remains as fresh as it ever was. There’s been an added bonus in chronicling her growth as I’ve continued to see her, but each show stands on its own as memorable in their own ways. Hers is a career that I expect to be following for many years as it continues to ascend.
Words: Mark E. Ortega
Photography: Danielle Gornbein