Author Archives: Geoff Hong

[Event Review] Gabriel Gárzon-Montano and Kali Uchis Bring the Soul to The Warfield (SF) 9/18/19

Nearly a year and a half ago, I had the opportunity to see Gabriel Gárzon-Montano perform in an intimate venue here in San Francisco. The crowd was small but the atmosphere was deferential to the rising R&B star. Reserved, soulful artistry was the theme of that show, held shortly after the release of Gárzon-Montano’s sophomore album Jardín.

This week, Gárzon-Montano played a much different show at the Warfield in San Francisco. Larger venue, larger crowd; an eager yet uninitiated group more rabidly interested in the headliner of the night, Kali Uchis. Nevertheless, Gabriel Gárzon-Montano put on an intense spectacle. The performance featured interpretive dancing, multiple costume changes, and even a shirtless stint. The set was condensed to include just his most popular songs, like “6 8”, which kick-started his rise in popularity. Gárzon-Montano did his best to match the energy and performance style of the evening’s fiery headliner, but did so in his own way. It was an interesting experience to see transformation of his performing style, reflective of his growth and flexibility as a performing artist.

The audience seemed quite appreciative and genial to Gabriel Gárzon-Montano, but the main draw of the evening was undoubtedly Kali Uchis. Between sets, the all-ages crowd was chanting her name in anticipation. During some songs, Kali only had to hit the accents and runs; enthusiastic fans sang all her lines for her. One of the highlights of her set was an electrifying cover of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love”, a late 70’s jam that surely everyone has heard at some point in their life. Throughout the night, Kali wooed the audience with her singing chops, seductive dancing, and charismatic likeability.


If you’re a fan of either artist, check out their upcoming tour dates here. More shots from the evening below:

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[TMN Interview/Music Video] Møme – Møments I

Music and travel have always been two hugely-important, intertwined pieces of my live. They’ve both served as sources of personal enrichment through discovery– whether it’s through the discovery of a cool new song, or through experiencing the world through different perspectives. I’ve always derived such joy in the new and unexplored, and I’ve found that music and world travel are both equally expansive and bountiful reservoirs in this regard.

Sharing new music with those from another part of the world is basically double-dipping when it comes to these pleasures. In this vein, I had the chance to catch up with French artist Møme about his recent project, Møments I. This latest project from the French multi-instrumentalist and producer derives its inspiration from the lush volcanic landscapes of Bali. Møments I magically encapsulates the ambient, serene nature of the tropical island. With polished guitar licks and soulful lyrical infusions, Møme creates a special vibe that’ll have you wishing you were in Bali right this moment. In Møme I saw a kindred spirit, inspired by the beauty and vibrance of the sunny surf town I had visited just over a year ago. Møments I is a two-single mini-EP, comprised of the tracks “Canggu” and “When We Ride”.

The project comes with some stunning visuals; a live performance filmed in the shadow of the mighty volcano Mount Batur. You can give it a watch below, and learn more about the man and the process behind Møments I after the jump.

TMN: So travel seems to be a source of inspiration for you when it comes to creating music. What is it that first made you want to start traveling the world?

Møme: Well I guess that I was living in the same town, with the same people for too long and needed a big change in my life. Traveling is going out of your comfort zone, challenging yourself, meeting new people, sometimes speaking another language. There is excitement, fear and I wanted to experience all of that. It also a great thing to get inspiration and then compose. And I started traveling at the same time as writing my first album “Panorama”.

TMN: Seeing new parts of the world has always sort of kept me grounded. Learning from new cultures has been an enlightening and rewarding experience. It’s also made me more appreciative of home, here in San Francisco. What’s your own personal relationship with travel? What has it done for your music?

Møme: Haha yes, I totally understand the “home feeling”. When I started traveling, it was more “personal”, for myself, like a desire for new experiences, a desire to discover. Now I travel for shows and to share my music. I go overseas every month, it’s exciting but I don’t have the same time for personal trips. It’s way more intensive and I also appreciate coming back home. I live in the South of France, where everything is quiet and where sun shines all year long. I need a peaceful lifestyle when I’m not on tour. And for music, traveling offered me the possibilities to discover talents, featurings that I’m now working with. I’ve composed more for international vocalists than for French ones!

TMN: Travel aside, where do you call home these days?

Møme: The French Riviera is home but Indonesia has been like a “home away from home” the past 6 months. It has the weather that I love, good surf, good food, extremely nice people and I have often said to myself “should I move there for real?”.

TMN: I also had the pleasure of visiting Canggu last year; what an amazing town. Idyllic paradise full of amazing people and good vibes. What’d you think of Canggu and Bali?

Møme: I only discovered Bali last year. It was for my honeymoon and the trip we planned was supposed to be very chill. But I don’t know what happened there, I immediately started to compose! I was so inspired by the local sounds, instruments, by everything that was surrounding us! I was supposed to visit Bali from North to South and East to West but last October, we received messages from our embassy because of a volcano threat and had to shorten our trip. Canggu is where we spent most of our time. It is very quiet, the food can be very authentic as well as super healthy and the surf is good! It is where I stayed last month to finalize my two tracks from Møment I (Canggu and When We Ride) and film a video clip.

TMN: So thisMøments project is going to be a three-part project, with the first highlighting your experiences in Bali. What can we expect from Møments II and III?

Møme: It will be very spontaneous! I’m now in South America and will be visiting again soon the USA and Canada. It may be possible that one of these destinations will be the inspirations for Møment II. And for Møment III, it will be a bit later, probably end of this year. I’m still hesitating in between a hot or cold destination for this one!

TMN: I’m a big fun of the funky guitar grooves on “When we Ride”. It seems like that retro, dance-y feel is really big in the French music scene these days. Who would you call your biggest musical influences?

Møme: Yes it is! French are a bit retro sometimes 😉 Wow, my influences are not all electronic actually. I’m a huge fan of Tom Misch from the UK, and I’ve been a huge fan of Flume few years ago. Now I like a lot r’n’b songs and voices like Jorja Smith for instance.

TMN: If you could perform with any other artist (historic or current), who would it be?

Møme: Probably Mura Masa! I’ve been listening to him for a while but he is getting more and more attention in France now! We played at the same festival in Paris last week.

TMN: Where is next on your list of travel destinations?

Møme: Today I’m in México, flying to Cancun then back in France for two shows. I’ll go back home beginning of July for literally two days and then, I’ll be flying to Canada (Montreal and Quebec) for festivals. Finally I go back to Los Angeles, my second home away from home after Bali! And after all of these trips I have Belgium, New Caledonia, probably again Mexico and Belize this year. Some are for fun, some are for work!

I have to say I really have been enjoying the music coming out of France these days. As touched upon in the interview, the French these days have been adeptly bringing back retro-chic elements, interlacing them flawlessly with soul, funk, and modern electronic influences. Between artists like Møme, Jean Tonique, Polo & Pan, and FKJ (who also created a track inspired by paradisiacal Canggu), there’s a lot to be gained by opening up your musical tastes to that part of the world.

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[Show Review] Polo & Pan Rock Their SF Debut at the Independent (6/20)

Polo & Pan. Photo by Priscilla Anna.

Three funky Frenchmen took over San Francisco’s The Independent on Wednesday night. Polo & Pan made their long awaited San Francisco debut, playing to a sold out crowd. Jean Tonique was added in support as a last-minute announcement, further whipping up San Francisco’s frenzy for these groove architects from France. In fact, demand for tickets for this show on resell/music groups was some of the highest I’d ever seen, especially for a weeknight show.

Jean Tonique set the tone for the night.

Those of lucky enough to be in attendance took in quite the show. Jean Tonique started off the night with his old-school funk inspired beats, getting the audience ready to dance. Tonique looped all of his beats and guitar riffs live, showing sleek and polished craftsmanship. Drinking gin and tonics to the tune of Jean Tonique was an absolute vibe. Continue reading

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NUEX Release their Debut EP ‘Affectus’ [TMN Exclusive Interview]


When I first came across the music of NUEX, a DC-based electro-pop duo, I couldn’t help but comment to myself on how different and unique it sounded. It certainly did not sound like the music I usually find myself listening to. But with the sultry vocals of Camille Michelle Gray and polished production of drummer/producer Teddy Aitkins, there’s just something about their soundscape. It’s dreamy, it’s haunting, and quite intentionally, it’s out-of-this-world.

NUEX, with a name drawing from the French word for “heavens, sky, clouds”, materialize a dreamy vibe with dark, mysterious undertones. Their lyrics reflect the moodiness of their tunes– a “serendipitous” occurrence that is said to draw on inspiration on the moody contemplations of life and its sometimes ugly outcomes. I had the chance to get a peek into the headspace of these two new artists and catch up with them about the creation of their latest EP, Affectus. See what they had to say below:

TMN: The dark and emotive mood that comes through in your music isn’t something I hear all too often. How did you come to land upon this sound for your musical identity?

Camille: I think Teddy and I just share an inclination for depth and profundity that naturally comes across in his production and in my lyric writing. Purely serendipity to me! We never *tried* to be deep or moody, we just both see music as an outlet to have those conversations.

Teddy: I agree with her 100%. We both have incredibly diverse taste in music, from funk to classical. I’m not sure why our music turns out the way it does but 80% of the time, when I lay hands on the piano and we begin writing a song, it just turns into the more moody dark sound. I guess it’s our bodies way of getting out our own “dark passengers”.  

TMN: I feel like I hear a little bit of Kavinsky or maybe even Gesaffelstein in your music. Can you share some insight on your influences and inspirations?

Camille: The Kavinsky reference is fabulous, he is one of my favorites. I won’t bore you with my musical influences, too exhaustive to list! So I’ll pivot and say one of my deepest influences is the ugliness of human emotion. I know it sounds vague or maybe pretentious, but I use music and songwriting as a way to explore and question those baser, nastier and darker emotions and to draw some meaning and purpose from them. And then the end product is a lyric or a melody or a song, a way to beautify what is otherwise difficult to feel. Calling the EP Affectus, Latin for emotion/mood, is symbolic of that process.

TMN: How did you two meet and decide to make music together?

Camille: One very vague posting on Craigslist! And to be honest, the start was very rocky, with Teddy and I trying to reconcile our wants and our style. The only thing that really solidified us as a duo was when I wrote Lights Off. Then I was like “Ok, wow, I like this and I like this direction.” Never looked back.

Teddy: Yea, I agree. When I first sent her the song, I don’t think she was really feeling it. I wrote it with a different genre in mind I think.  We weren’t sure of our sound or what direction we were going. We just knew wanted to make music. But once I heard what Camille had done to the song, I knew we had something magical.

TMN: What’s your creative process like when it comes to recording new songs?

Camille: I wish I could say we always sit down together in the same room and vibe off of something, which we sometimes do. But honestly we do a lot of things remotely, both because we are busy and because we enjoy creating in solitude. So Teddy’ll send me some music he created by himself, I will write to and record it by myself, and then it becomes what you hear on the EP, a combined identity of its own.

Teddy: Yea, I think it’s mainly because we love doing what we do in solitude. We still do create together and do a lot of things together. But I think we just enjoy being alone when we create. Also there is something fun about creating something and going to your partner in crime and being like “check out this thought or sound. Lets build on it”. Then we go back and forth in our own space and make it happen. Maybe we both have a lot of anxiety and silly thoughts and creating is our way of dealing. So it feels more natural for us doing it the way we do.  

TMN: Some of your lyrics are pretty heavy stuff. What’s the inspiration behind them?

Camille: Life. And how wack it can be. And how beautiful it can be. And how in-between those two things it usually is. One of our main themes as a band is space and the Universe. I write a lot from the perspective of trying to marry mundane human happenings to something larger than life, hoping to make our experience here seem more meaningful than it appears.

TMN: Is there anything else you’d like the listeners to know about Affectus?

Camille: That it took four years for it to get here! Such a long journey. Like it’s only five songs, but behind it all–so much blood, sweat and tears. Also that it is merely our introduction to the world. We have plenty else in store and are excited to be kicking the door open now.

Teddy: The music does the talking.  *said in a Michael Jackson voice* Continue reading

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[Music Video] Kllo – Potential

Melbourne-native cousins Simon Lam and Chloe Kaul have often been featured here on The Music Ninja, under the artist name of Kllo. They’ve returned today with their first single release since their acclaimed 2017 album Backwater, which firmly cemented their sound and identity as artists. With nothing left to prove, Lam and Kaul take some creative liberties and experiment a bit more on latest single, titled “Potential”.

“Potential” interlaces Kaul’s characteristically dreamy vocals with moody piano chords, said to have been conceived in a green room while on tour one day. You see a little bit more R&B influence come through on this track, representative of the duo’s desire to expand beyond the sonic persona that they established for themselves in 2017. The emotional track laments the loss of a love that just couldn’t work out. It comes with an accompanying music video, check it out below:

If you liked what you heard, Kllo will be kicking off a tour at the end of the month, making stops in the States before heading off to Europe. Tour dates and a ticket link are available below. Continue reading

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[TMN Interview & Album Review] The Bones of J.R. Jones’ Third Studio Album: Ones to Keep Close


“Listening to music is a deeply personal experience and the way one interacts with any art reflects their past.”


There’s something distinctly recognizable about American music– whether it goes by blues, roots, Americana, or any similar moniker. Stylistically it’s always soulbaringly expository; a reflection of our rich history of diverse musical influences. There are always those creations that are unmistakably the product of America; sounds that capture the grit of the swampy south, the loneliness of our dusty highways, and the solitude in our mountains. In his third studio album Ones to Keep Close, The Bones of J.R. Jones manages to capture all of these sounds.


As the production of solo-artist Jonathon Linaberry, The Bones of J.R. Jones keeps alive the flavors of genres and styles long past their original heyday. In order to better understand the man and the process responsible, check out the interview below:


TMN: Can you tell me about some of your influences and what you’ve taken from each of them?

My influences range quite the spectrum… but if I had to pick a handful I would say Son House for his passion and, Springsteen for his melodies, and Tom Waits for his sense of theater.

TMN: If you could get into a room with any musician, contemporary or historic, to make a song, who would it be and why?


JL: It would be Howlin Wolf. Nobody can write a swinging blues riff like him.

TMN: You’ve been known to find solace and inspiration in your farmhouse in the Catskills. Can you tell us more about your creative process?


JL: There’s not much of a process. It’s more of just sitting still and turning [off] all computers and electronic devices. Forcing myself to do that and forcing myself to be stimulated in other ways is the best to get the creative juices flowing.

TMN: How did you come to acquire your distinctively American sound?


JL: Can’t say why that happened. I suppose it’s just the music I fell in love with growing up. You hear something and it resonates with you at moment. It creates an experience for you. That’s something that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

TMN: Were there any seminal moments in your life that influenced your musical ear?


JL: For sure, hearing Blind Lemon Jefferson in a dorm room my first year in college changed my trajectory. I wouldn’t be doing what I do now if I hadn’t stumbled in that room so many years ago.

TMN: How would you describe the Americana/blues/soul sound of today? (i.e. where’s the music coming from, what are the themes/messages)

JL: I think there’s a lot of different school of blues. Some try to stay true to their roots. I think that’s it’s own form of respect for where the blues came from. Other’s take what’s been done and try to innovate a bit… in my humble opinion many times that crashes and burns. There is the rare instance where someone comes across and something truly unique and it’s a success… but I feel like that’s few and far between.

TMN: When you aren’t creating music, what do you like to listen to? Any other genres or sounds that you’re a fan of?

JL: I listen to a lot of jazz. Roy Eldridge and Chet Baker is always in rotation these days.

TMN: On lead single “Burden”, you write that “it came out of a place where people search for someone to share the weight of the world”. How has emotional isolation, even loneliness, shaped you as a musician? As a person?


JL: It’s shaped quite a bit. I travel by myself. I play music by myself. Spending four weeks on the road by yourself can’t help but influence every facet of your life… socially, creatively or personally.

TMN: Is there a message behind Ones to Keep Close? What would you like to tell your friends as they listen to the album?


JL: There is no overall theme or message per se. The record as a whole was an attempt from me to try something a little new. To grow beyond my other records. As a result, it sounds bigger, fuller and hopefully a little more thoughtful. I don’t like telling people what to take away from my music. Listening to music is a deeply personal experience and the way someone interacts with any art reflects their past. If the music is any good it should creates it own theme with the listener. That’s what I hope to do.

Ones to Keep Close is a creation that blends together Linaberry’s diverse influences as a musician, while paying homage to the tenets and traditions of each. As Linaberry says during the interview, he stays true to his roots and his roots are his own– showing respect to his predecessors in the process. Though strictly a solo artist (playing every instrument) in the past, Linaberry incorporates the talents of his friends, artist Nicole Atkins and producer Rob Niederpruem for this latest production.

The whole album is orchestrated around making you feel something; loneliness, exuberance, energy. It has been described as a “stomp-along” experience, and the track titled “The Drop” certainly stands out in this regard. I envisioned hearing this song coming out of a jukebox in a dimly-lit bar on the side of a highway, as you hear the crack of a pool table in the back. “I See You”, a 180 bpm track that ups the album’s pace significantly, ends with classic-blues style triplets that conjure images of American muscle cars doing burnouts. The tracks “Please” and “Sister” employ the use of gospel-inspired call-and-response and hymnal organs, making you feel as though they should heard on the church bench. Ones to Keep Close sounds like the embodiment of American life and culture heard through the lens of music. As you listen to Linaberry’s latest album, think about what feelings the music invokes for you and how that could be a reflection of your past.

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Saba’s Ascension Continues @ Slim’s, San Francisco 5/3 [Event Review]

Chicago natives Saba and Joseph Chilliams came through San Francisco this past Thursday night as a stop in Saba’s Care for Me tour. The two co-founders of Pivot Gang, an independent music collective, delivered electric performances in front of an all-ages audience from all over the Bay Area. The show marked Saba’s first return to San Francisco since his Bucket List tour in early 2017. Concertgoers that had attended the 2017 show remarked upon the noticeable improvement in his stage presence and live chops.

Saba reppin for San Francisco

Early opening support for the show came from Chicago compatriot Jean Deaux (check out that wordplay), who later returned to perform the track “Photosynthesis”, a track on which she features. Joseph Chilliams, who happens to be Saba’s brother, took over soon after. Chilliams presented tracks from his debut album Henry Church, named solely for the English translation of Enrique Iglesias’ name. The rest of Chiliams’ set was similarly “tongue-in-cheek”, with plenty of references to eating “groceries”. Chilliams’ set could best be described as a celebration of self and sex. His upbeat attitude and stage presence reflected those of an artist with much to celebrate– expect to be hearing much more from this guy in the near future.

Joseph Chilliams, Pivot Gang cofounder

Donning a topically conscious Kaepernick jersey in San Francisco, Saba blessed us with a relevant display of passion and emotion, drawn from his youth in westside Chicago. The 23 year-old showed why he’s the unofficial frontman of Pivot Gang by captivating the audience with a solid hour’s worth of bars. He let on some signs of an artist that’s still really coming into his own, occasionally seeming surprised at the audience’s familiarity with his discography. Attendees responded with reckless enthusiasm for older tracks like “World in my Hands” and “Westside Bound”, while “LIFE” off of his most recent album Care for Me was undoubtedly the floor-shaking highlight of the night. After two solid album releases in Bucket List and Care for Me and resounding live performances such as Thursday night’s, you can’t help but be excited for things to come from Saba.

Don’t miss out on the chance to see Saba live. You can find the rest of his tour dates here.

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