Since his sophomore album Total Loss was released last September, Tom Krell has solidified his spot as one of music’s emerging artists to watch. Krell, commonly known as How To Dress Well, has received extensive critical acclaim while offering a twist on traditional R&B. His use of microphone effects lend ethereal qualities to his voice, and echoes and delays prevalent throughout his songs induce a meditative state for listeners. However, with all that being said, meditative is the last word to describe his set on Friday. Not to take away from his skills as a performer, but more as a reflection of the majority of those in attendance.
Everyone within ear range seemed to be preoccupied with banal, lackluster conversation during HTDW’s set. Being a part of an enthusiastic crowd always warrants a feeling of pride. However, Friday night was not the case. In fact, it was the opposite. A feeling of guilt manifested itself in pride’s usual place. An atmosphere characterized by indifference. Tom Krell vocalized his displeasure by comparing the club’s feel to a “mall food court” near the end of his forty-five minute set. To those who were paying attention, Krell’s frustration was evident. However, nothing was done by HTDW to improve the situation. There was no interaction (besides the few comments made about the crowd’s lack of attention) between the audience and the stage. The gel that works to fuse the performers to everyone else in the room was missing. His sense of humour was lost and worked against him. In an attempt to end his set on a positive note, Krell asked for maximum volume. This resulted in everyone’s undivided attention and the loudest applause of the night, but it seemed forced. The lack of pizzazz could be blamed on the un-enthused audience, or Krell himself. Either way, there was something missing.
If Sky Ferreira was watching HTDW’s set then I’m sure she was worried about the type of reaction she would receive. With a chance to swallow a few more PBRs and smoke a few cigarettes, the crowd came around and it slowly began to feel like a regular concert. The tight film of awkward had been washed away by the taste of beer. Sky strutted onto the stage with her blonde, ’80s-inspired mane flowing down past her shoulders. One thing, above all, can be said about Sky Ferreira – that girl can SANG. Traces of Madonna, David Bowie, and Blondie can be found throughout her repertoire. That synth-rock typical of the ’80s mixed with Gwen Stefani. Sky’s set was much more suitable for the venue than Krell’s; hard-hitting, in-your-face pop-rock allowed for more dancing and drinking.
How To Dress Well has immense potential to be a great live act. Clubs are just not the proper venue for them to flourish. Krell mentioned how, a few weeks past in New York, he was able to sing for over a thousand without a microphone. He attempted the same at The Biltmore with a much smaller audience and failed. Theatres would compliment his airy vocals much better than nightclubs. On the flip side, Sky Ferreira, another emerging talent, proved that she has what it takes to work a tough crowd. She was able to turn the awkward vibes around and pump out a solid set. After the show, based off the polarized reactions, I was questioning why they bothered to call it a co-headlining tour.