The "r" in "R&B" doesn't stand for "rock," but it might as well for the artists of the Move Forward Music showcase at Northside Festival.
The three later artists of Friday's Move Forward Music showcase - Tangina Stone, Adrian Daniel, and Denitia - had styles clearly based in the hip-hop and R&B genres, but all three brought a stunning burst of rock to their sets. Instead of just the personal producer with a laptop and mixer setup that so many artists use when their primary instrument is their voice, all three singers brought a full band with them onstage to bring the house of the Knitting Factory down.
The night opened with Synead and Deem Spencer, both respectable artists in their own right. Synead's tropical beats and bright, full vocals made the venue feel like a palm tree could be just out of sight behind the bar. Spencer had a frenetic set of raps over simple beats, and while his frequent jumping around made it hard to understand his lyrics, those that were heard showed impressive skill.
Stone came on next with her band - a five-piece set-up including a guitar, bass, keyboard, and drummer to back her vocals. Despite having a cold, her voice was stunning and rich. After establishing the band's only rule for their shows - "All asses to the front!" - the group's energy and talent had the audience wanting to get as close to Stone as possible. A few bold souls were leaning on the outer edge of the stage, and her tendency to dance and pace around stage made sure that everyone got the full effect of her showmanship.
"This band only really has one rule at our shows - all asses to the front!"
Besides her obvious vocal talent, Stone's best trait was her understanding of song structure. Whether performing her original track "Anxious" or an ethereal cover of the Gnarls Barkley classic "Crazy," Stone proved that she knows that songs have to grow in order to be interesting. Her near-formulaic style of starting with a cappella vocal and bringing in the full band for aggressive effect never got old, and she was able to continue growing the songs from that point. Not many musicians in any genre or at any level of following share her skill.
Adrian Daniel, a seasoned Knitting Factory veteran, followed Stone and only expanded upon her sound and her stunning effect. His first song - a stripped-down, soulful cover of "Roxanne" - was performed with no lights save a single white spotlight on him. When the band came in to join him in his hit "Devoted," the lights flew up to reveal red-and-gold sparkling Vans sneakers.
Daniel's guitarist, Dimitri Morisseau, almost upstaged the singer with guitar solos that would make any stingy classic rocker cry. In good grace, Daniel gave Morisseau several moments of spotlight throughout the set to let his fingers fly.
Between the backup vocalist, the drummer, and the bassist, Daniel had an ensemble capable of stunning any crowd - and his own vocal chops to boot. His own original tracks "Havoc" and "Fucking High" saw many in the audience singing along, clearly enjoying the dark rock vibes as much as his recorded style that favors more hip-hop sounds.
Denitia headlined the showcase, and though the crowd thinned after Daniel left stage and there were fewer audience members singing along to her songs than to his, it was immediately obvious that she was worthy of the slot. Her songs covered African beats, classic blues riffs, melancholic pop, and anything in between. Some audience members became so entranced that they began dancing; and not just the normal swaying and bouncing, but the full hustle, turns and steps included.
Denitia's banter was on edge but clever between tracks (example - "The moon is fucking with you whether you fucking with it or not"), and her flawless performance will surely drive up numbers for her album release later in July. Even without holding the mic pressed against her lips, her voice projected so clearly that it was downright captivating. She, too, understood song structure in the same way that Stone did. Instead of a bright energy, though, Denitia resembled the moon (pun intended). She was calm, resolute, and still able to inspire passion and awe.
Keep an eye out for Denitia's track "Waiting," to be released next week, and on any projects from the performers or Move Forward Music - none of them seem to possess the ability to disappoint.