by Mike Scarfo
I’m not sure how many artists and musicians would admit it, but I imagine there is a high level of trepidation in headlining a show. What kind of crowd can I draw? Do I have a stage presence? Will I forget my lines and embarrass myself like B Rabbit did in the opening scene of 8 Mile? All valid questions, especially when taking the risk to put your art out there on stage in front of hundreds of people after a two-year long pandemic that made legitimate live music, for the most part, obsolete.
Now, picture headlining your first show, selling out the venue in pre-sale, and every performance in the setlist being nothing short of an engaging, dynamic experience. That is exactly what local Massachusetts artists Timi O and l.ucas just did at The Rockwell in Somerville, accompanied by a talented lineup of their peers in PS Jovi, Layzi, Uche Malik, & FayBee. They were backed by the engineering brilliance of Space Boy, who manager Deric Wagner claims was "a key piece of the puzzle" in the overall success of the show.
Selling out a crowd is difficult enough, but engaging with the audience is an entirely different challenge. What separated this show from so many others I’ve been to, was the unique setup of each individual performance. There was no rhyme or reason to the setlist, which is always a risk for potential disorganization and lack of continuity. Even still, the group elected for a more unstructured approach and it truly paid off: each artist showcasing their solo tracks throughout the evening as they performed both catalog staples, as well as compelling unreleased songs. They also included numerous collaborations that certain pairs have worked on together, proving a cohesiveness in their vision for the night. The format was fresh, innovative and intriguing from the standpoint that you never knew who or what was coming next.
Timi O Leads the Charge with His Unrelenting Charisma
Throughout the night, it was clear that Timi O’s stage presence was the ignitor that initially sparked the show. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought Timi headlined dozens of shows prior to this one in the way he was able to engage with the crowd. His charisma was second to none, providing humorous commentary in between performances. The sporadic “sheesh!” or “ahh!” at the end of a song was met with roars from the audience. His vocal inflections were impressively captivating, further drawing in the crowd with every syllable. On numerous occasions, many threw their hands up and bobbed their heads to the bounce of a track like the upcoming “Steady Hand”, a song that I am eagerly awaiting to release.
What is most profound about Timi as an artist is his versatility. This dude is far from just a rapper; he is a very capable singer, showcasing smooth melodies on songs like “carefully” and “Smoov”, and even hitting impressive falsettos on the aforementioned "Steady Hand”. As an artist, Timi has all the skills to be a rising star in this area, but what truly separates him is his possession of the “it” factor as a performer. He had me sold from his very first song in the setlist.
l.ucas. Producer. Artist. The Glue Guy of the Group
Without l.ucas transparently alluding to his shy and more reserved persona numerous times on stage, to any unbiased music fan, you would think this was just another Saturday night show for the talented slew of vocalists and musicians. But to anyone paying attention, it was clear how much thought was put into this experience. How much this show really mattered.
What is unique about l.ucas is his close proximity to each of the other performers. l.ucas has proven to be incredibly influential to each of these artists, especially from a sonic standpoint. He’s produced many of the lush, layered instrumentals that were in the setlist, and it’s his attention to detail that really made the show a success. Numerous times throughout the evening he joined artists on stage in a supportive role, whether it be on “Lil Bit” with Fay Bee, or “Forfeit” with Layzi, or “ONETHIRTYAM” with PS Jovi. His performance of popular standout track “u4u” with Timi O was a major highlight that had the entire crowd singing in tandem.
Despite his support of other artists, it was amazing to witness l.ucas shine as a solo act. Much like Timi, he was able to connect with the crowd. However, it was on a much different level; he balanced out Timi’s energy and charisma with a more sentimental, emotive approach. It was the perfect example of “opposites attract”, and what clearly makes the two a dynamic duo. A song like “Isolate” really showed off his unassuming vocal range, while his newest offering “Bad Place” was the perfect feel-good track the show thrived on late in the setlist. Ultimately, it was the relatability of l.ucas that made his performances so memorable and special.
Layzi Is Anything But Lazy
I’ve known Layzi throughout the Massachusetts scene for a while now, but this was my first time seeing her perform.This girl is not only talented, but she’s the antithesis of her stage name. She puts so much soul and passion into the way she performs, and is simply a joy to watch on stage. It’s almost mesmerizing how her voice seemingly flows in sync with every body movement.
Her vocal performance on “Forfeit” moved the crowd with tranquility and bliss, juxtaposed with the smoother, more quirky tones of a track like “Hide and Seek”, Layzi conveyed quite the sonic range in a rather scarce period of time. Personally, it left me wanting more and more Layzi; I think she’s an artist steadily on the rise that people need to start paying more attention to.
Oh and PS, That Girl Jovi Has Vocal Talent For Days
PS Jovi was one of the two artists in this lineup I didn’t know about prior to this show, and I am absolutely ashamed this was my first introduction to her. Much like Timi, I was surprised again and again by her versatility throughout the evening. Her collaboration with Timi on “Smoov” conveyed her tight bars and crafty flows, with her highlight moment being the enthralling vocal performance on “ONETHIRTYAM”. The way she effortlessly rode the lush, lo-fi instrumental with gorgeous vocal tones was easily one of the most memorable parts of the show.
What I think this proves is that there is so much talent here in Massachusetts that doesn’t get the exposure it deserves. “ONETHIRTYAM”, a song rejecting the fallacies of the clubbing scene, has become one of my new favorite songs; I highly recommend checking it out if you’re late to the party like I was.
Uche Malik Is the Face of Afrobeat In Boston
This man has the “rizza”. For those unfamiliar with the term as I was, Uche explains that “rizza” loosely means to have charm or charisma. He took the time to engage the crowd by teaching them the lyrics of the hook, which subsequently erupted the venue the second it dropped.
Uche’s authenticity and poise on stage was infectious, whether it was his collaboration performance of “Function” with Timi O (which is a bonafide hit), or his solo acts of the viral “Fancy” or aforementioned “Rizza”. Uche Malik is an afrobeat artist who I think could be a major voice in the genre for years to come.
FayBee Impacts the Evening with Tenderness and Grace
Last but certainly not least, FayBee’s contributions to the night cannot be ignored. FayBee provided the perfect opportunity to switch the vibe to a more pop-driven sound that gave the show even more diversity and variety.
Her first two tracks “Honey” and “She A Star” relayed another vocalist with incredible range and talent; there’s a soft, almost angelic approach that she takes to her performances which I really admired. Her final performance “Lil Bit” with l.ucas had a palpable tenderness as the duet-style act was yet another pillar in the setlist.
A Call to Action: Support Your Local Musicians and Artists
As a music head, a local show of this nature was so enjoyable to witness, walking away as a fan of many new artists, and confirming what I already knew about others.There’s a certain level of appreciation within the purity and attention to detail these up-and-coming artists put into their crafts. So I challenge you all reading this: go support your local musicians and artists. Check out the schedules of the local venues near you, and pop out to a few concerts this spring and summer. Who knows, you might walk away with a new favorite song or two, and an unforgettable experience like we did.
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