Cautious Clay at Bottom Lounge

By Catie Moore

Photos by Sydney Crawford

5 Dec, 2019

The night’s performances opened with Remi Wolf, a singer/songwriter whose sound could be categorized somewhere between the trippy effects of psych pop and the groove of R&B. The former American Idol contestant and self-proclaimed “crazy bih” blazed on stage accompanied by a guitarist and drummer, all sporting quintessential indie-thrift-store outfits: “my performance outfit,” Wolf said of her tie-dye shirt and bucket hat. And perform she did, dancing across the stage and even busting out into matching choreography with her guitarist during breaks in the songs. 

With funky guitar riffs and an undeniable groove, it was easy to tell that Wolf approaches her music with a sense of humor. She performed a number of songs off her debut EP, You’re a Dog! including “Shawty,” an upbeat, summery track, and obvious fan-favorite “Sauce,” which featured layers of synth and electronics. In a previous interview, Wolf described how her EP came to be: “sometimes I was stoned AF, sometimes I was on shrooms, sometimes drunk, sometimes sober… and most times angry lol.” Wolf carried on a wide array of sound during her performance, even performing covers of Miles Barkley’s “Crazy” and MGMT’s “Electric Feel.” The real star of the show, however, was no doubt her incredible vocals. Wolf’s voice, powerful even in the midst of high-kicking on stage, carried a great deal more strength and tone quality than the typical breathiness expected of an indie singer. At the end of her set, the once-idle crowd was moving along, drawing on her energy in anticipation for the rest of the night.

By the time the opener had left the stage and the house lights were back on between sets, the previously unoccupied space in the Bottom Lounge had been completely filled, transforming the mingling crowd that had been present beforehand into a standing-room-only audience. It was clear that most were here for one man only: Cautious Clay.

Cleveland-born singer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Joseph Karpeh (more commonly known by his stage name Cautious Clay) began his career on SoundCloud with the release of his most famous single, “Cold War.” Since then, his discography has expanded to include two EPs, a handful of singles, and his debut album, Blood Type. Though his sound can easily be classified as R&B, the artist incorporates elements from a number of different genres into his music, including electronic synths, jazz saxophone, and 808-inspired beats. “I’m always drawn to a very good balance of organic and electronic sounds,” Cautious Clay explained in a 2018 interview. “I try not to be super electronic, but I also try to be very purposeful with what I use.” However, even his talent as a recording artist was no indication of the skill he displayed as a live musician and performer.

Instead of the typical fog and concert lights, the stage was decorated with a number of table lamps whose colors pulsed and changed with the beat of the music, giving the vibe a much more homey, intimate feel as if we were watching a house show performance rather than one at a sold out venue. From the front corner where I stood for the duration of the night, it was easy to forget that there was a whole crowd of people behind me experiencing the same music. 

Cautious Clay performed a number of songs from Blood Type, including “Stolen Moments” and “Joshua Tree,” the two most popular songs off the album. It was evident how dedicated the audience was to his music, singing along to every word and cheering so loud during his sax solo that he was almost drowned out entirely. His vocals, normally accompanied by harmonies and the occasional autotune effect, were buttery-smooth live. Though he was accompanied by a bassist, drummer, and (an incredibly talented) guitarist, Karpeh himself rotated through a number of instruments which demonstrated his versatility as an artist. The guitar solo he played on “Crowned” contrasted the more melodic guitar of “Something from Nothing,” and his smooth saxophone on “Stolen Memories” lent itself to an altogether different effect than his playing on the aforementioned “Joshua Tree.” The best moments from the night came from his unexpected classical flute skills which he showcased on a new song from his upcoming album. 

Altogether, the nuances behind Cautious Clay’s genre-defying music that might be lost in a casual Spotify listen were shown off tenfold in his live performance. Watching the hypnotized crowd react to him onstage, listening to his songs brought to life, there’s no denying that Cautious Clay is undoubtedly talented and well-worth a second (or third) listen. 

SET LIST:

  1. Sidewinder
  2. Settler’s Paradise
  3. French Riviera
  4. Honest Enough
  5. Agreeable
  6. Silos
  7. Juliet & Caesar
  8. Call Me
  9. Crowned
  10. Joshua Tree
  11. Blood Type
  12. Something for Nothing
  13. Erase
  14. Stolen Moments
  15. Karma and Friends
  16. Swim Home
  17. Cold War
  18. Shook