For a Tuesday night, the Moroccan Lounge was buzzing particularly loudly. Kelsey Lu is a significant draw for audiences, with her growing reputation as a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter. She began as a cellist, studying classical composition as early as age six. Her mind continues to dip into that well of knowledge, giving her a unique style that magazines clamored over when she released her debut EP two years ago. Now Kelsey Lu is gearing up to tell a longer story through a full-length album which is due out later this year; she gave audiences a taste at her very first LA headlining show.
FUPU opened the night with their hair metal aesthetic, including up-dos, neon garb, and intimidating axes. At the top of the set, before playing any songs, the main guitarist introduced the band: “I’m Uhuruverse and I play guitar and sometimes sing,” she said, continuing down the line to her left with frontwoman Jasmine Nyende, bassist Ayotunde Osareme, and drummer Tianna Nicole. Their purpose as a band is to give credit to the underrepresented and overlooked minorities, and that starts with making sure everyone knows their name. FUPU is an acronym for “Fuck U Pay Us,” a call for reparations that includes some aggression, though to reduce them to angry Black women would be, well, racist. They preach about disarming and dismantling the government–specifically the LAPD (“get LAPD out of LAUSD…off the metro…off our college campuses”)–denounce white men and the establishment, and also advocate for sex workers and the poor. Every one of their messages is succinct and impossible to ignore, and for that reason, FUPU won’t fade from memory quickly, if at all.
After hiding in the back, Kelsey Lu’s cello came to the forefront as she walked onstage. She began with a call to jump into the Atlantic, the ocean she knew best growing up in North Carolina. She later revealed that her forthcoming record is all about home–the idea of it, and how she specifically has wrestled with her changing environment after leaving the east coast, eventually landing in Los Angeles. This story led into her final song of the night, “Due West,” a beautifully expansive track that we can look forward to hearing upon its release. In fact, most of the set that night was comprised of new music, though many cheered pre-emptively upon hearing the first few strums of “Shades of Blue,” which came out recently as the first single from her still-untitled record. With its cinematic new music video, the track is a good representation of the trajectory of her career: finding its footing visually, sonically, and spiritually.
Elle says Kelsey Lu doesn’t sound like anyone else, but the truth is that she bucks homogeneity from all sides. She came out with pale blue eyebrows at the Moroccan, for starters. More importantly, and more to the point, she allows her classical inclinations to lead her songs, letting them breathe with sometimes only her cello as accompaniment to her vocals. A friend of mine pointed out the poetry of her singing style, which seems to mirror a bow to strings: she climbs notes carefully rather than jumping around, using volume as a tool to her advantage. There is surely more magic in store for us on her new record, one that will see light sooner rather than later.
Words by: Zoë Elaine