Son Lux @ Black Cat - 3/21/2018

Ryan Lott and company weren't going to let a bit of snow ruin the kick-off to their North American tour. Son Lux, comprised of Lott on keys/vocals, Rafiq Bhattia on guitars, and Ian Chang on drums, released their fourth album (and second as an official trio) Brighter Wounds in 2018. The album is an amalgamation of emotions and genres - fear, joy, and anguish all shine through their complicated, contemplative, and anthemic tracks. The snow caused other cancellations around town that night, but Son Lux insisted that the show would go on. Though opener Hanna Benn had to cancel, Son Lux alongside openers Sinkane provided a compelling night of music for those that stuck it out.

Son Lux's Ian Chang leaving it all on the drum kit (Photo by Mauricio Castro /  @themauricio )

Son Lux's Ian Chang leaving it all on the drum kit (Photo by Mauricio Castro / @themauricio)

Though the weather prevented their stage light shipment from arriving to DC on time, the trio still absolutely captivated the crowd in the intense orange glare of the Black Cat house lights. Lott’s background in music composition shows through the intricately looped and layered keys he brought to life. On songs like “Forty Screams,” Lott’s hauntingly powerful, yet restrained vocals resonated over brooding and distant synths to create a sense of dread. But his contributions are not the only ones pushing the musical envelope forward. With a collection of foot pedals and effects, Bhatia stood tall creating otherworldly guitar solos, forming something melodic in one moment and something complex and dissonant the next. And Ian Chang might very well be one of the most unbelievable drummers of our time. His passion shows in his complex polyrhythms and off-kilter techniques as much as it does in his facial expressions. Chang’s drum kit was almost completely MIDI-augmented with wires connecting his laptop to his snares, toms, and kick drum. These wires allowed him to create completely foreign sounds with a drum kit, going beyond a simple drum pad and moving into uncharted musical territory for drummers. The show’s finale, “Lost It to Trying,” was a powerful show of force - Lott’s soaring vocals, along with Chang’s no-holds-barred snare attack and Bhatia’s fleeting guitar solos punctuating the silence - it was memorably overwhelming in ways that not many songs can pull off. It was a larger-than-life moment from a band that always swings for the fences in unexpected ways. Though the snow unfortunately kept some away, those that made it to Black Cat were treated with three of the most gifted and genre-pushing musicians touring now.

Brighter Wounds is available now through City Slang.

Opening for Son Lux was Sinkane, who got the crowd moving with their Afropop- and classic rock-inspired rhythms. Guitarist Ahmed Gallab and company are headlining material in their own right, having played at Black Cat last year, but their return featured favorites from their most recent album Life and Living It. Songs like “Telephone” received an extended makeover, allowing the band to jam out and trade solos between one another. If Son Lux is arresting and assertive, Sinkane is laid-back and welcoming, inviting people to join in on their hour-long dance party. Life and Livin’ It is available through City Slang.


Photos by Mauricio Castro
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