I saw one-man soul-folk orchestra Moses Sumney perform at School Night! LA this past Monday. The unsigned musician blew me away with his talent and I even managed to get video of his last song!
Moses Sumney had only breathed a few (perfectly pitched) notes before my girlfriend and I turned to each other awestruck and blurted in unison:
“Is this real?”
“Are we dead?”
There’s a trance-like quality to Moses Sumney’s music, and within minutes of stepping on-stage, he had calmed the mildly intoxicated, rambunctious crowd into a swaying, hypnotized stupor.
It’s human nature to attempt to categorize that which is unfamiliar in order to better understand it. As Moses’ dynamic, instrumental voice echoed around me, my mental rolodex spun wildly in search of a comparable artist. Al Jarreau? Similar, but with a more somber depth. Jamiroquai? A comparable vocal range, but more acoustic and DIY. A hint of Leonard Cohen, perhaps?
What I can say most assuredly about Moses Sumney’s performance– and I’m aware of how corny this sounds– is that it made me feel things. Specifically, it made me feel grateful.
I recalled how just a few hours earlier, I’d been struggling to hastily apply eyeliner when my phone rang. For a brief moment, I considered that it might be my girlfriend calling to cancel our plans and felt a twinge of anticipatory relief. Was it so wrong to secretly want to curl under my warm comforter and watch the new New Girl episode with Prince?
I balked at the notion that I might have missed out on such a moving event. It made me realize that these were the sort of performances I was missing when I opted to stay home and binge-watch Dexter because the idea of driving six miles or catching the train seemed too large a task. Just like that, I resolved to stop coddling my introvert tendencies and carpe noctum more often.
Now I ask you, when was the last time music struck you so profoundly to question your daily habits?
But back to Moses. He was dubbed a “soul-folk warrior” by SPIN magazine and the description hits pretty close to home. Moses is awkwardly charismatic on stage and his rhythmic hip-sway during the song “Replaceable” convinced me that he is no stranger to Beyonce’s greatest hits.
Moses performs alone, and when he’s not strumming intricate melodies on his guitar, he creates the sounds of a symphony with vocal harmonies and percussions on loop. I was shocked to learn that although he has been writing songs since he was young, Moses is a recently self-taught guitarist and musician.
It was while studying creative writing at UCLA that the Los Angeles native began teaching himself guitar and performing around campus. I suspect it’s this tendency towards creative writing that allows him to create such vivid imagery with his lyrics. Now graduated, Moses’ popularity has only grown, and at our Monday night concert he drew the largest crowd School Night LA’s weekly concert series has seen in their four-year tenure, packing Avalon with over 700 eager fans.
Later this month, Moses will open for Dr. Dog at the Wiltern on February 27th and in March, he will headline a free, Monday night residency at the Bootleg Theater. Non-California residents need not fret, as Moses has also been confirmed to play during the SXSW conference and festival in Austin, TX between March 7th and 16th.
Despite taking a bathroom break literally moments before Moses began his set, my girlfriend and I managed to snag ideal spots right under the stage. Unfortunately, we were so busy gaping, we hardly managed to take any pictures. Luckily, I came out of my Moses-induced coma just in time to record his last song of the evening, “Everlasting Sigh.”
Enjoy the video, and for more information on Moses Sumney including tour dates and music releases, please visit MosesSumney.com.