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BLK ODYSSY is the Best Live Act in Music | At LA’s Moroccan Lounge, a Cinematic Explosion of Anti-Genre and Sex

Evan Dale  // Sept 20, 2023

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Evan Dale

The Arts District is buzzing. It always is. Every night, between the galleries, Michelin star restaurants, and warehouses playing host to unsanctioned techno parties, there’s something going on. But tonight, it’s the Moroccan Lounge. The small, storied venue — only denoted to the outside world by its arches, Arabic tile, and blue neon sign — belongs to BLK ODYSSY this evening. And for those in the know — wrapping a sold out line around the block — that means the best live act in music is playing the night cap at one of LA’s most intimate venues. It’s a must-see.

For those not in the know, the Austin-rooted band is an eclectic ensemble of wildly rangy artists. Marcus Jones on the drums is given the impossible task of transcending genre with breakneck shifts of pace not only between songs, but often in the middle of one. Marc Bridges is a mad scientist controlling the whole performance from a laptop, a keyboard, and a saxophone. Jimmy Blazer rips the bass with funky nostalgia. Alejandro Rios shreds the guitar while his facial expressions also bleed into the music. Eimeral Sol — a Soulstress at her own starry height — provides supporting vocals on top of her opening set. And Juwan Elcock — the frontman — is the most indescribable. As pervasive with his poeticism and flow as he is with his high-noted register, his is a transcendent expression of emotion and musical fervor best falling under his walkout moniker: the Ghetto Diana Ross. Bathed in red light, and finally onstage just after 10:30, the show is on.

It’s an unbreachable sea of humanity packed into the Moroccan. Full capacity plus, no doubt, the packed house tension is immediately released when BLK ODYSSY takes the stage. Everyone settles into their spot for the next two hours. Love thy neighbor, get to know thy neighbor, and respect the unpredictable nature of their dance moves. The artists on stage, too, settle into their performative peak, nimbly maneuvering through the vastness that just two studio albums — BLK VINTAGE (2021) and DIAMONDS & FREAKS (2023) — have provided a world desperately in need of a group truly doing something innovative and new. The former — the meandering introduction to a band of soul-infused jazz and rock instrumentalists, fronted by an R&B slinging rapper — is an impossibly well curated debut for an impossibly wide-ranging crew, granting a glimpse into just what is possible when raw musical creationism melds with evocative emotion and provocative storytelling. The latter — the face-melting coming-of-age tale that bridges sexual awakening to a web of complex, Neo-Soul bliss — is the most unique and necessary album of the year, and probably over the last few years at that. On stage, both weave in and out of one another alongside unreleased work à la dizzying live renditions that have a tendency to bleed with soloist explosions from any artist at anytime.

Flashes of lights, propelled by drum kicks and lyrical bars, make time bend with unpredictability. A frenzy of torrid guitar solos and epoch-defying basslines amalgam with blistering keystrokes and timeless brass. A rare spoken moment from the frontman or his supporting soulstress addressing the crowd is bookended by countless more songs, disappearing into one another with compositional silkiness. Genre, as we know it, dies a thousand deaths on the stage at a BLK ODYSSY show, and something so much greater - the defiance of its very existence - is born in its place. It’s music, and it’s as simple as that. But from the Austin-based group of musical misfits turned sensational sonic alchemists doing so many things so very never done before with such grace and sultry stamina, it’s a complex zenith of modern performance. And if you’re a fan of a mosaic of preconceived musical spaces, it’s the greatest show on Earth.

Though the US leg of BLK ODYSSY’s second ever tour ended just a few nights later with a penultimate San Francisco showing, they move onto Europe next where in London, Paris, and Amsterdam, not only will they continue to defy stylistic boundaries, but geographic ones too.

Check out the Full Gallery from the Show, here:

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