by Zach Dowd
Last Tuesday night was full of dancing, singing, rocking, and all around excitement for students and fans at the Sinclair. The Berklee Popular Music Institute sorted through over 300 submissions for this highly competitive event, and they narrowed it down to five acts who they thought would best represent Berklee at various prestigious festivals around the country this summer.
AJNA started off the night, bringing their chilled out indie electronic sound to the stage. This unique set of six is led by frontman and vocalist/guitarist Felipe Maldonado, who showcased some impressive vocal manipulation with effects. Rounding out the rest of the stage was Tommaso Tadonio on keys and synthesizer, Zak Icaza on drums, Aaron Kennedy on backing vocals and OP1 sampler, Saguiv Rosenstock on guitar, and Carlo de Biaggio on bass. The band members were constantly looking at each other, totally in sync and lost in the music at the same time. The driving synth bass combined with a cymbal-heavy drum groove to give AJNA a consistent backbone for their funky guitars to riff on. Their huge sound was made for the festival stage, but if you missed them at the Sinclair, they will be performing at Sonia on March 30 in Cambridge.
Luhx. came out as a four piece with Colin Keller and Corinne Savage combining as a dynamic front duo. Keller was on guitar and background vocals, while Savage captivated with her siren-like lead vocals and played keyboard. Behind them, Elijah Davis provided reverberating synth bass and other electronic sounds, and Matthew Chenery held it all together on drums. Luhx. is a tight-knit unit, and it showed on Tuesday. Their alternative electro-pop sound showed up in full force at the Sinclair. The driving groove of songs like “Hung Up” were impossible not to move to, and combining that with Savage’s metaphorical, vivid lyrics on “Poison,” made Luhx a stand out of the night. To top it off, Chenery got one of the loudest crowd reactions of the night with his show-stopping drum solo to end their set!
Next came Emilia Ali. Ali recently had her debut EP released by Capitol Records, and she has already seen success on iTunes and Spotify viral charts. She came out strong to “Dreamland,” a sexy, R&B infused dance hit that is her most popular song on Spotify. Her voice had some real golden moments when her Arianna Grande like falsetto and riffing abilities started to shine through. The most undeniable moments of Emilia’s set were the huge choruses and electronic drops in songs like “Into the Light,” and “Turning Me On.”
Yanina started her set with a powerful, three-woman hip-hop dance routine, set to Justin Timberlake’s new record “Filthy.” It really made her stand out and instantly grabbed the attention of the audience after a long break of stage set up. Yanina’s voice was rich and bright, and it gave body to her R&B infused tracks. She held the crowd hostage while commanding the open stage like a veteran. This is especially impressive because she told me this was the first time she has performed her own music on stage. I think everyone at the Sinclair that night hopes it’s not her last time either. Her lyrics all have strong messages and sitting here writing this, I can still hear her chanting “don’t let ‘em change ya” in my head. Yanina is looking forward to performing at Essence in New Orleans this summer.
To round out the show, Folk/Indie band Jacksonville Kid took the stage. They started off with a folk feel, but they quickly moved to showcase their seemingly wide range of influences like Americana, Soul, and Grunge. Featuring a violin, two guitars, vocals, bass, and drums, the 5 piece’s potential for loudness was taken full advantage of. Frontman Jacob Allen had a wild persona on stage that was a nice change of pace from the more play-by-the-rules personalities of the other bands. He started off the set with a story about how he got kicked out of that very venue about a year earlier, and it would not be the only story he told. The band’s stand out moment was an intense, grunge-infused song that featured the line “I’m on a bender, hate my gender…f*** your boys club.” Allen showcased Cobain-like screams and the band’s ripping guitars backed him up. The song even prompted a brief mosh pit to open up in the crowd. Jacksonville Kid was the perfect finale, and they left the crowd chanting “one more song,” to which they readily obliged.