Concert Review

Concert Review: Son Lux Pushes Musical Boundaries

todayMay 28, 2022 86

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Clara Blankenship

Music Journalist

The enthralling, avant-garde, spontaneous sounds of Son Lux up-close in an incredibly small venue? Say less.

Son Lux is an eclectic band that pushes musical boundaries while remaining grounded in jazz and rock essentials. Their music is difficult to describe, as it is a genre-melting pot, featuring electronic, alternative, and classical elements seamlessly blended to create an endlessly engaging listening experience.

Son Lux is comprised of 3 members: Ryan Lott on keyboard and vocals, Rafiq Bhatia on guitar, and Ian Chang on drums. They are currently on a tour for their most recent album releases, Tomorrow’s I, II, and III. Also, they are fresh off of the release of their score for the incredible film Everything Everywhere All At Once.

This was a very special concert for me, as I grew up dancing to Son Lux’s music and have kept up with their releases since middle school. The venue, Empire Control Room in Austin, was desirably small and dreamily ideal for their sound and my fangirl admiration for them as artists.

Unique to most concerts I have attended, this felt more like a jam session than a curated performance. Each song took on a life of its own, as each member bounced off of the lead of the others, as if we were all sitting in on their band practice hearing them try out new material.

After a few tracks, Lott spoke to the audience and said that they had a setlist but decided to leave each track open with room for experimentation. I couldn’t imagine completely going with the flow on a stage, yet the members did it with comfortability and class. The musicianship it takes to improvise in a live setting is immeasurable, and it was so unique to attend a concert where the audience felt like a part of the music rather than merely spectators.

Specifically, I was enthralled by drummer Chang’s ability to stay on his toes amidst the uncertainty of where each song was headed. He weaved in and out of time signatures with such ease, playing with so much energy that I am amazed he had the stamina to last the whole show. He switched between traditional drumsticks and more delicate, soft mallet, powerfully guiding the band through each song. He shined during the track “Tomorrow” as he drove the ebbs and flows of the song with syncopated, shocking rhythms, eliciting audible, awe-filled gasps from the audience.

Ian Chang sits behind a drum set on stage. Two microphones on stands are on each side of the drum set. Two poles of light stand vertically on the right side of Chang with multiple light circles stacked shining a golden light onto Chang. The bass drum is green and the other drums in the set are red and golden. Two large bronze plates sit on the left of the drum set. There is a sound board on the right of the drumset. Chang is looking down and holding two drumsticks.
Ian Chang of Son Lux playing the drums on the Tomorrow’s Tour at Empire Control Room. Carolina Garza/KTSW

 

Lott’s vocals sounded even better live than on their studio recordings. The raw, vulnerable vocal tone translated beautifully acoustically. He began the show with a solo piano ballad, allowing the subtle rasp and cracks of his voice to echo through the venue and gently usher in the audience to absorb the rest of the show. He also toyed with vocal modifiers and layers, using effects that created infinite harmonies as he sang during the track “Another Life”. The lyrics were profound and evocative, emulating feelings of loneliness and disillusionment with relationships and life.

 

Ryan Lott stands on stage playing the keyboard and singing into a microphone. He is wearing large glasses and a plain black t shirt. He is lit by blue overhead stage lights. The left of the image is blue, and the right is shadowed and black.
Ryan Lott of Son Lux singing and playing the keyboard on the Tomorrow’s Tour at Empire Control Room, Austin. Carolina Garza/KTSW

I had the opportunity to stand right in front of the Bhatia on guitar and watch him meddle with complex technology and effects, none of which I can even begin to comprehend. He had 3 soundboards at his feet and was constantly changing the tone and audio quality of his guitar, switching from muffled, sustained tones to crisp, synth-like grooves, even in the middle of songs. His droning shoegaze solo in “Easy” immediately gave me chills.

For the encore, the band played 2 tracks from the film Everything Everywhere All At Once. They detailed their experience scoring for the first time and shared how proud they were of what they produced (which honestly deserves an Oscar in my opinion). This was the best end to the show I could’ve asked for, finishing on a strong note with bombarding sounds from each instrument, swelling to a climax paired with overwhelming strobe lighting and distorted noise.

I was blown away by the ability of three individuals playing simple instruments to produce full, constantly adapting sounds. Their music is infinitely layered, and the fact that each member was able to contort the sounds of their mediums to unprecedented places affirmed that the boundaries of music are endless and crave to be pushed.

This show was dynamic. Son Lux’s range as a band is unmatched, somehow feeling grand and cinematic while also being the most personal, intimate show I have attended. I could only describe it as beautiful chaos: perfectly uncontrolled.

Written by: ktsw899

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