Noise Pop Review: Jay Electronica, Michael Armstead, Sylvan LaCue at Mezzanine, 2/20/19

by Natalia Perez on February 21, 2018

All Photos by Natalia Perez

I walked into Mezzanine as the DJ played My Neck, My Back, and I saw the smallish crowd of early arrivals start to dance to the familiar song. The DJ transitioned to other fun, nostalgia-inducing songs, the crowd grew, and energy started to fill the room. 

When the first performer, Michael Armstead (@RMSTEAD_ on Instagram), took the stage, the growing energy in the room exploded. His movement, his performance, and his connection to the crowd combined with his quick, thoughtful lyrics created excitement – setting the tone for the high-energy night ahead.
He was full of surprises – using a couple of his songs to show us his impressive vocals, and taking a moment to share some vulnerability with the audience. He told us how he was nervous to do a show in California – even contemplated bailing on it – but he decided to face his fears and ended up having one of his best shows with us. He documented the occasion with a crowd selfie, but his energy was pure and his smile was contagious.
Up next was Sylvan LaCue (@sylvanlacue on Instagram), and even more positive energy radiated off the stage.  His latest album is called Apologies in Advance and he described it to us as “a 12-step process of growth and acceptance.” His words told us about his journey of figuring himself out, but it was intimately relatable. In one song’s chorus, he repeats “all I wanna do is be the best me” and the crowd joined him, echoing that thing we’re all trying to figure out.
When it was time for Jay Electronica to take the stage, the space was buzzing with energy. When he walked out in the dark, everything ripped open and the crowd’s excitement was powerful.  When the lights came on and he started to perform, it was impossible to not get swept up in it.  Later in the evening, he told the crowd “the energy you give me is the energy I give back to you”, and that exchange was palpable.
After paying respects to J Dilla, talking to the crowd a bit, debating whether he was allowed to call it ‘Frisco, and a brief impromptu cover of some Frank Ocean, Electronica pulled two local, Bay Area born-and-raised, performers on stage with him.  He explained that the first time he got to perform in front of a large crowd was because Mos Def let him come up during a show in Electronica’s hometown of New Orleans. He gave the two amateurs a chance, and they didn’t disappoint. Their respective lyrics were creative, urgent, and fluid – and Jay Electronica let them know they had something special.
As a reward for taking a chance, the two young men and their friends were welcomed onstage for the rest of the show. They – like the rest of us – got to enjoy a moving version of Better In Tune With The Infinite, followed by some songs for his day ones. Then we all looked on as Electronica jumped into the crowd, disappearing into a sea of excitement and iPhones while his lyrics and performance energy cast ripples into the crowd.

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