by Stephanie L. Carlin
Last Saturday night, I saw a friend of mine perform at the Hard Rock Cafe near Faneuil Hall. She was performing with three other acts, one of which was fellow sophomore Berklee student Tony Ni Evans, and headlining act Aizhou, a Berklee graduate. That friend was Jace Payackapan. She is a sophomore at Berklee from Thailand and recently came out with an EP Desires. The EP has 5-tracks that was released on Valentine’s Day. The tracks are mostly originals and were being worked on and recorded for at least a year. They include personal stories of Jace’s time at Berklee, some happy and some sad.
For those of you who don’t know how the Hard Rock Cafe performances work, it’s essentially a showcase of local artists. The amount of tickets sold for each at determines the act’s set length. Remembering previous visits to Hard Rock Cafe, I think that it can be a bit of a vanity concert on occasion, but it does give excellent exposure to new artists and is a very safe place to release new material.
Selling an hour’s worth of tickets, the group played that same amount of time, starting with Aizhou who came on with her full band playing five songs. With two guitars, a bass, drums, and a keyboard, Aizhou performed originals that no one had heard yet, as well as an Arctic Monkeys cover. What was particularly impressive about that performance was her band, who were recently assembled at Berklee. She seemed to establish herself well as she and the opening act James Reed were the ones with the most patrons in attendance.
Then came Tony and Jace who were definitely the youngest performing. They both had acoustic sets, mostly relying on piano, although Tony Ni Evans was more dance than acoustic. He too has released music recently and performed those songs for the first time in front of an audience. Where Aizhou was more associated with rock and pop, Tony Ni Evans was all dance and a little disco. He had produced his tracks, and while he did play piano at one point, his main prerogative was to dance through his set. I’m not going to lie: it was very different than the Hard Rock sets that I have seen in the past, but he got the crowd going with his well-produced songs, instant stage charisma, and a silver sequin jacket. That never hurts.
As for Jace, I’m going to have a little bias. I’ll be honest, I think her performance was great. She performed two originals, “Sensitive” and “Lush,” both from her EP and offered a sense of spunk and humility, difficult to come by in new artists nowadays. There are many up-and-coming artists that feel as though there is all this opportunity for them because they are the greatest thing to come on this stage and no one can surpass them (cough, cough, freshmen). What’s nice about these shows is that artists have everything to feel grateful about when performing. The people out in the audience aren’t strangers, necessarily, but friends who paid to see Jace do her best and, as for that, I’d say she did do a great job. “Sensitive” had a personal but sensual flair to it and same with “Lush” and I’m surprised that I was so touched by one girl at the piano.