Empress Of, ABRA


The Echo was a packed house for two very special ladies,
ABRA and Empress Of. I adore Lorely Rodriguez and had met her at SXSW several
years earlier, just after her debut EP dropped. At that time, I was completely
unfamiliar with her music, but once I caught that, I knew I was hooked. Two
years passed, then I heard about her again when her debut full length was
announced. And when I saw she was playing at the Echo, I had to go.

The only thing I knew of ABRA was this, so
I had quite literally no expectations for her set, but it blew me away
nevertheless. She has an infectious stage presence that the crowd definitely
fed off of. She also has recently released a debut LP, Rose, but did not stick to only playing those numbers. She did a
few tracks from her previous EP, and also threw in a cover of “Seven Nation
Army” that actually was excellent. I feel very annoyed by that song these days,
but ABRA’s refreshing rework of it turned the original on its head. They should
start playing that version at football games.
ABRA was set to warm up the audience for Empress Of, and
there was no question that she succeeded. Her performance could stand alone as
a great time, but she also had the perfect attitude to get people’s blood
pumping. A common complaint from groups that play in LA is that we Angelenos
don’t dance, but trust me, that is not true. You just have to ask us nicely.
ABRA was solo on the stage that night, dancing to her beats alone with her
little old mixer. “Don’t make me dance by myself,” she pleaded with us. Later,
she introduced “Fruit,” a track from her LP by dedicating it to those among us
with lead in their shoes. I only realized her snark while she sang, “are you
really gonna stand there staring at me all the way from across the room?” We
danced, oh boy did we dance, and then her short set was over.

Lorely took the stage next, and the crowd was alive pushing
and cheering and dancing up toward her. She started the set with “Realize You,”
which might be the first song by Empress Of that you notice her stark
independence. Her full length, Me, is
implicitly about herself and her choices, but if you listen carefully, everything
is told in the point of view of a woman in a relationship. She depends on
another but knows her own worth. And that
is what is so powerful. She glowed on stage, singing and moving along with
every track from her new album, but rarely took a chance to talk to the
audience. At the introduction to “Kitty Kat,” what would be the final track of
the night, we saw why she hadn’t addressed us earlier. Lorely began to say how appreciative
of our support, but the crowd’s cheers overpowered her. Woos, whistles, and
shouts may have drowned out her banter, but she managed to honor her backing
crew while everyone went wild. Something to note: she called her synth player a
“mad scientist.” The keys are scalpals and the music is FranKORGstein.

If I were confronted by hordes of strangers the way Lorely
Rodriguez is, I’d probably be just as coy. Clearly an introvert, Rodriguez has
rebuffed my claims of affection both times I’ve spoken with her. The first time
was at SXSW in 2013, right after she had released her debut EP. My friend and
fellow music director at our college station had gone up to her to compliment her
performance and ask for a Legal ID to play on the station, but she refused,
solely because she had no idea what we were talking about. A Legal ID is a clip
where the name and location of the radio station is stated, along with whatever
silliness you want to include. I’m sure you didn’t know that before this, so
how could we fault Lorely for the same? Two years later at this show, I told Empress
Of about that experience and her face fell. I half expected her to do her best
impression of Tina Belcher’s groan, but she also just seemed tired. Touring
will do that to you. I gave her a hug and wished her well on her future shows
of the tour, not before getting a pic with the lovely lady. My goddess, Lorely.

Empress Of | Facebook
| Twitter | Instagram | Soundcloud

ABRA | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Soundcloud

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