Live Review: Sirius XM Alt Nation Advanced Placement Tour 2018 featuring NoMBe, Mansionair and Mikky Ekko at Union Stage, Washington, DC – 13th April 2018

By on Monday, 16th April 2018 at 2:00 pm

The Wharf is a recently revitalised area of in Southeast Washington. So far, I’ve resisted coming to this area because I don’t agree with what’s been done to it. Not surprisingly and like other places in Washington like our club land of the U Street Corridor, it’s been grabbed hold of by developers and gentrified. As a music lover, you’re going to have to suck it up and come down here eventually. A prime reason? 9:30 Club’s promotion team IMP have moved many of the big shows to the Anthem so bands you might have seen before at 9:30 will now be down here. Groan. Last Friday night, I decided to finally check out the Wharf to see a show at the Anthem’s smaller and less ostentatious neighbour, Union Stage, owned by the same fine folks who run Jammin’ Java in Vienna in Northern Virginia. The first show at the venue for the night was the latest edition of Sirius XM’s Alt Nation Advanced Placement Tour, starring three rising acts.

Doors opened at 6 – ridiculous for workaholic Washingtonians, mind – but I was glad to see NoMBe (pronounced NOM-be) beginning his set to a reasonable-sized audience, even if it was 6:45. Originally from Heidelberg, Germany, singer/songwriter and producer Noah McBeth now calls Los Angeles home. He should be the poster boy for success off of syncs: Pharrell (yes, that Pharrell) hand-picked his song ‘Can’t Catch Me’, a upbeat rock foot-stomper, for HBO series Output. McBeth explained how grateful he was for money he earned from the sync, saying it’s paid for his touring following the release of his debut album at the start of 2017, ‘They Might’ve Even Loved Me’.

NoMBe Sirius XM Alt Nation Advanced Placement tour Washington 4

The LP is a tribute to the strong women in his life, from those he’s loved romantically and as family (notably including Chaka Khan, his godmother). As you might imagine, the spectrum of tributes is wide, going from the sweetness of falling in love in high school in hit single ‘Wait’, to the far less innocent and more obvious sultriness of ‘Sex’. The artist who oozed charisma went further back in his catalogue to deliver the slow burning r&b masterpiece ‘Miss Mirage’, while showing him and his band’s more alt-rock chops on ‘Drama’. The eclecticism of his music demonstrates he refuses to be placed in be confined in one box, a fact that was embraced by the mixed race, mixed ages crowd.

After a short break, it was now Mansionair’s turn. Like NoMBe before them, the Sydney trio were making their debut performance in Washington. In the middle of their set, they revealed that in an attempt to keep healthy in the first week of this Alt Nation tour, they’d gone for a run during the abnormally warm April day and were able enjoy our world-famous and transient spring display of cherry blossoms. It’s useful to remind everyone that Mansionair may have never happened: Jack Froggatt was a folk singer/songwriter with a guitar who got invited to top-line tracks by producer/guitarist Lachlan Bostock and drummer/producer Alex Nicholls. One of the early fruits of their combined efforts was single ‘Hold Me Down’, which proved to be a massive streaming hit. The song was performed in this set, as was their newest single ‘Violet City’, validating their continued songwriting prowess.

Mansionair Sirius XM Alt Nation Advanced Placement tour Washington 5

The secret to Mansionair’s success so far is their elegant pairing of Froggatt’s expressive vocals, sometimes soaring into falsetto, with electronic driven instrumentation that just adds to the overall emotional quotient. The sexy drawl of ‘Easier’ and their own version of ODESZA’s ‘Line of Sight’, on which Mansionair collaborated with the Seattle duo on last year, went down a treat, the DC crowd getting swept up by the band’s sonic loveliness. They finished their set strong with 2017 single ‘Astronaut (Something About Your Love)’, which I was lucky enough to hear them perform twice last year at BIGSOUND 2017 in Brisbane. It’s a perfect marriage of soulful vocals and electronic, and I really can’t wait for their debut album.

Last up was Mikky Ekko, who I admittedly entirely misjudged based on the one song of his I heard online and what I’d read about his release history. The American singer/songwriter is from the South (ah, so that’s where the soul comes from), has a big head of curly hair and beard, and is like a force of nature onstage. What sounds to me on Spotify like borderline annoying singing for hipsters comes across much more organic and genuine from him live. As advertised, his big hit ‘Smile’ elicited more than a few grins in the room.

Mikky Ekko Sirius XM Alt Nation Advanced Placement tour Washington 2

The energy he brought to a now-full Union Stage was undeniable, his voice going between r&b and rock, and he and his band delivered an exuberant performance. Many people were singing along to the tunes off his most recent ‘Advance Copy’ EP, and they were super excited when he jumped down into the crowd for his final song. As part of his final shoutout to the crowd, he yelled, “if you hadn’t heard of me, don’t forget me!” What an astute comment to make about all three of these acts on this Advanced Placement tour: each gave a lasting impression and a compelling argument to all present that they are ones to watch.

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[…] Thursday afternoon at Next Level Apparel’s day showcase through this link.) The Sydney band’s previous visit to Washington was as part of the 2018 Sirius XM Advanced Placement Tour with NoMBE and Mikky Ekko last April. A […]

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