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Transmission
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Review Mon Oct 05 2015

The Internet at Bottom Lounge: Bumpin' Some Warm Vibes On The First Chilly Weekend Of Fall

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I didn't expect The Internet's Syd tha Kyd to be such a commanding presence on stage.

When you talk to her, as I did a few weeks ago for Transmission, she emanates a laid-back attitude that's matched by her sultry trip-hop vocal delivery on the album her band is supporting on this tour, Ego Death. I thought I was in for an evening of slow jamming, casual movements to subtle grooves, and hazy sensuality at Bottom Lounge. But the energy that the band brought to the stage lent the night a stunning vibrance that warmed the bones and the soul on a frosty Sunday evening.

The stage was set by opening act Nicky Davey, an early Maroon 5-esque funky R&B group whose singer, Nick Green, worked with The Internet on Ego Death as a vocal producer and co-writer. He's got an ideal voice for the genre--it's a slightly more nasal and less powerful version of Justin Timberlake's, but his knees-weakening falsetto makes up for those deficiencies. Green channels Mariah Carey on "Dreamgirl" and Dwele on "Rainbows," showcasing the late '90s influences that have made such a sonic comeback in today's neo-soul movement.

The most interesting part of Nicky Davey's performance was guitarist (and Hinsdale native) Dave Rosser's talkbox, which he plays with an expertise matched only by Cherub's Jordan Kelley among modern acts. I complimented Rosser on his technique after the show, and he told me it took him a year of practice just to learn how to say the alphabet through the device. It's proof that hard work pays off, because his shredding lent a hard-nosed oomph to the songs, particularly on the song "Hollywood," which sounded like a combination of mid-'80s Red Hot Chili Peppers and something off Justified.

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At the end of the band's set, they got everyone chanting "EGO DEATH." It was, in a strange was, very fitting: anyone who joined in the chant lost their individuality, becoming part of the throbbing mass eagerly waiting to explode for The Internet. After Kendrick Lamar's "Alright" blasted over the PA and got the room bouncing, the headliners took their place to an ear-splitting roar and launched into "Get Away," the opening track off of Ego Death.

In our interview, which happened at the beginning of The Internet's tour, Syd tha Kyd told me that one of the biggest hurdles she had been facing was learning to sing in her full chest voice. "That's been really difficult for me," she said at the time. "It's been an interesting challenge, and frustrating, but I'm getting somewhere and thankfully I'm starting to progress." I was excited to see what that process would yield last night, and clearly whatever Syd has been doing is working. Aside from needing to reach for the lower end of her register on "Partners in Crime," she sounded powerful throughout the set--gone was the sexy intimacy of her studio efforts, replaced with a badass devil-may-care spunk. Syd sang particularly well on the subtle ballad "For the World," and her soprano runs on "Palace/Curse" brought the crowd to a fever pitch.

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Syd also dominated the stage with the casual ease of a modern Cleopatra. She grooved to the beats with robotic dance moves, she led the audience in waving their arms and jumping around, and on "Girl," one of the highlights of the set, she played the contrast game by standing nearly still and letting her voice do all the work. For "Just Sayin'," she taught everyone the very simple chorus of "You fucked up," which was gleefully echoed back to her, but at other points the audience response came totally organically and she merely needed to extend the mic outward. One of the most magical moments of the set occurred just before "Penthouse Cloud," when she told everyone to pull out their phone and turn on the flashlight function. Illuminated by the washed-out glow of around two thousand LEDs, she fittingly returned to the ghostly whispering style of singing she displays on Ego Death.

If Syd tha Kyd provided the elegant facade through which The Internet's energy shone, the band behind her was the rock-steady foundation. It was drummer Chris Smith's birthday, as someone in the crowd announced after "Get Away," and he stepped up to the occasion with dexterous cymbal work and perfectly executed complex beats. His airtight interfacing with bassist Patrick Paige formed a superb and soulful rhythm section over which the keyboards of Matt Martians and Jameel Bruner (maybe the smiliest musician I've ever seen) splashed jazzy chords. I missed the presence of guitarist Steve Lacy, whose work on the studio versions of "Special Affair" and "Gabby" bring an extra zest to those songs that wasn't adequately replicated by keys. But on the whole, the musical ambience created fit beautifully into the trippy neo-soul aesthetic while also knowing how to ramp up the intensity for an impressively fervid crowd. And the players found room to flash their technical chops, too: Paige's solo on "For the World" and Bruner's videogame-esque noodling on "Penthouse Cloud" hovered right on the proper boundary between impeccable taste and self-indulgence.

By the end of the show, the roar for Syd and company was deafening. She introduced her band one last time and then walked off the stage, letting them jam for a few minutes to take us back into the chilly night. The warm vibes stayed with me for long enough for my ego to be resurrected, refreshed and ready for a great week.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »

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Transmission is the music section of Gapers Block. It aims to highlight Chicago music in its many varied forms, as well as cover touring acts performing in the city. More...
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Editor: Sarah Brooks, sarah@gapersblock.com
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