As I was taking another listen to Jessy Lanza’s albums before her Great Scott show in Allston on Monday (July 18), I realized that I had no clue what the environment would be. It would be easy for her music to be the main event of a slow burning bump and grind, but could also be an experimental image-heavy show. That got even more confusing once I saw that she had a DJ for an opener.
When Hyperdub’s DJ Taye arrived on stage right before 10 p.m., he didn’t waste time with an introduction before getting right into his mixing. Early on in the set he threw the crowd some “Hotline Bling” which was great to get people moving even more to his rhythmically aggressive sound. This was in no means a simple party mix though; most of the music was edited and mashed up to points where it was unrecognizable, but perfectly danceable. At certain moments, little house gems would come through such as the Robin S hit, “Show Me Love,” which he chopped into something resembling modern pop R&B.
After dancing in front of his rig to close the set, Lanza and her crew got to work on sound-checking the equipment. Her setup was made of her own keyboards and machines with a mic, accompanied by a half electronic drumset. Everything had a kitschy vintage fabric wrapped around it, many of them sparkling in a way similar to the cloak on her most recent album, Oh No.
Beyond this, she had two lighting fixtures, a strobe ball at the front of the stage, and three huge diamond lights at the back. I quickly realized that this was going to be a great mix of everything I expected.
From the get-go, it was just her working through all of the music with her drummer, backed by a light show that turned Great Scott into a lounge with the same neon color palette as Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. She started off with a signature screech, echoing through the crowd and hypnotizing everyone that was bouncing to the beat.
Once she played “Kathy Lee,” everyone started to cheer a bit more as Lanza was blanketing the hard-hitting drums with her drifty synths. This is when I got closer to the stage to see just how much of what we were hearing was under her control. It seemed to be everything, besides the what the drummer was taking care of. There wasn’t much backing track, she was getting everything right on time while keeping up with her sultry delivery.
At points during “Never Enough,” she was able to stop her mix work to dance around the stage, which is where the energy started picking up for the music and the audience. A little bit later she played her recent single, “VV Violence,” which, by the chorus of backing vocals from the crowd, must have been the song everyone was waiting for.
With even heavier bass than the record, this song was the dance party that everyone was waiting for. In the chorus, the drummer, who was doing an amazing job of replicating the drum machines, threw in a ride symbol that made it almost punky. It goes without saying that the Allston crowd loved that.
Another recent single, “It Means I Love You,” was even better than the record in this setting. With the thumping bass, this song was just as much of a dance heavy banger as “VV.” She had some trouble getting the chord synths in the verse to come out loud enough, but she was dedicated to still getting them on time either way. The breakdown of the song made up for it when the glitchy vocals made for a climax to the dance party of the night.
She left the stage waving with both hands smiling as everyone cheered for an encore. Before filling that request, I could see her talking to the drummer in the back area as if they were going in with a game plan. Whatever it was, it worked out. She played her early single “Keep Moving,” and everyone did as commanded for a close out to the ride that I assume only made everyone want to hit a club to keep it going despite being a Monday night. From the Miami lounge, to the neon soul singing, and then the glitter pop dance party, the crowd was glued to this performance from start to finish.