Last night, I was in the crowd for the sold out Tune-Yards show at the Fonda Theater in Los Angeles. My expectations were extremely high, as I have been obsessed with Tune-Yards since I first heard W H O K I L L in 2011. The combination of syncopated drum loops, ukelele, bass and saxophone, all layered with Merrill Garbus’ impressive vocals, was like nothing I had heard before. I watched every YouTube video and read every article I could find and anxiously awaited any word about new material or tour dates. I picked up a copy of Nikki Nack the day it was released and I bought a ticket for the Fonda Theater show the moment they went on sale.
It was worth the wait. Tune-Yards played an amazing set and the audience was excited and appreciative. Between songs, Merrill pointed out how much everyone in the audience — and on stage — was smiling. She then asked if everyone would sing happy birthday to her father, Bill. He was not at the show, but she held up her phone and just about every single one of the 1200 people in the room were more than happy to oblige.
Although I was a little sad there weren’t any saxophone players on this tour, the musicians Merrill chose for this outing more than made up for it. The additional female vocals, percussion and dancing make perfect sense if you understand where Merrill’s inspiration for Nikki Nack comes from.
After reading this article, I appreciate the new record and last night’s performance even more than I did when I left the venue. When an artist plays from the heart and personalizes their influences while coming up with something totally unique and unexpected — that is when I am most in awe. That kind of creativity will always stand out from the derivative and mass produced sounds that clog up the mainstream.