By Sydney Crawford
3 Dec, 2019
What started as a sleepy Tuesday Chicago night would soon turn into a night full of dancing, fun, and soulful music. People started gathering around the stage as the first opener of the night, Grace Blackford, stepped up to her mic. Backed by a three-man band, Blackford warmed up the crowd by performing all original works. In an R&B/soft rock style, Blackford’s smooth and rich voice dominated her songs “Groundhog Day” and “Guilty,” and occasionally stepped back to feature guitarist Ricardo Morales’ long and intricate guitar solos. Slowing it down with love song “Future With You,” a few couples and friends grabbed each other and swayed to Grace’s emotional and melodic vocals. Grace Blackford closed with “Inside My Head,” a song about anxiety that still came off silky and warm.
More people started to pack the small room in Martyr’s as second band Morning Dew began to set up and check mics. Feelings of support and friendliness were palpable in the space as friends of the band screamed compliments and words of encouragement, just two feet away from the members. The seven-person band packed the stage full of instruments and coordinating floral blazers, featuring Joe Nedder on vocals and trombone, Tyler Felson on vocals and trumpet, Albert Kuo on saxophone, Sammy Sobel on guitar, Eddy Maday on bass, Siobhan Esposito on vocals and keys, and Darsan Swaroop Bellie on drums. Bursting to life with an original song, Morning Dew layered brass horns with melodic keys and guitar lines to create a full, warm sound. Combining different vocalists in each song, Nedder mixing his alluring vocals with peppy raps, and unique combinations within the array of instrumentation, each of Morning Dew’s songs were kept distinct and fresh in a combination of R&B, rap, and jazz. After original songs “Champagne” and “New Home,” the deep and rhythmic bass line of Mac Miller’s “Dang!” evoked cheers from the audience; Nedder’s rap, Felly’s vocals, an enticing stage presence, and a huge saxophone solo from Kuo had the crowd grooving along with the band. “Sweet October” settled the audience with a sweet melody from Esposito in one of the calmer moments of the night. Through their entire set, the sheer musical talent of every member was tangible, especially in Nedder’s and Felly’s effortless transitions between singing and playing the trombone or trumpet respectively. After delighting the crowd with a cover of Chance the Rapper’s “Sunday Candy” and Vulfpeck’s “Wait for the Moment,” Morning Dew smashed their closing song “Skylight” in a flurry of harmonized brass, animated vocals, crisp drum and bass lines, and cheers from the crowd. This band is youthful, fun, charismatic, and innovative, promising much more to come.
Honey Butter took the stage one by one to deliver a slightly different, but no less soulful, vibe. Again with a large band, lead vocalist Alexa Moster stepped up to her mic, followed by vocalist and saxophonist Austin Klewan, guitarist Jacob Galdes, bassist George Estey, trumpeter and keyboardist Sam Wolsk, and drummer Oliver Holden-Moses. Honey Butter kicked off their set with original song “Missing Piece” which highlighted Moster’s insanely smooth and lavish voice and a grooving bass hook. As the pop/jazz/soul band made their way through their first self-titled EP, vocals switched between Moster and Klewan as each singer supplied a different feeling and style. Multi-instrumentalist Wolsk fluidly shifted from keys to trumpet, even playing keys with one hand and his trumpet with the other.
On slower songs such as “Let Me Believe,” softer backing instruments allowed Moster’s powerful vocals to shine, moving the audience and prompting some to dance at the encouragement of Galdes. In “The Answer,” one of the first songs Honey Butter ever released, Klewan moved from singing straight into a massive saxophone solo that left both the performer and the audience a bit breathless. Slowing it down with an emotional cover of Daniel Caesar’s “Best Part,” Honey Butter had the crowd swaying and singing along (especially Morning Dew, who was cheering like Honey Butter’s biggest fans). “Just Begun” picked the pace up again with a strong bass line, vocal harmonies, and an upbeat tempo. Finally, at the request of the audience, they performed an extra song that ended in an epic guitar solo by Galdes, finishing off a night of original music. Honey Butter’s music felt novel yet classic and was delivered with excitement and passion that won over the hearts of the audience.