There are few Internet taste-makers that college students look to for the new “it” band: Pitchfork, Gorilla vs. Bear and Rolling Stone, to name a few. But Restoration Hardware? On Friday, Bay Area locals flocked to the Hearst Greek Theatre for the West Coast debut of RH Music, the home-furnishing chain’s new division of a “platform for emerging artists.” The current fame of the night’s three artists is disproportionate to their talent, and each has rightfully earned the epithet of “the next big thing.”
The night was kicked off by the Brixtons, a four-piece band from Brooklyn obsessed with the Golden Age, bluesy soul records of yesteryear. As lead singer Donna Missal stepped onto the stage in a dress glistening with diamonds, recalling the elegant charm of the Supremes, the frontwoman immediately captivated the audience with a voice that’s equal parts Etta James and Janis Joplin. Her tunes start with soft, alluring croons but soon burst into pitches of feverish emotion that put Adele to shame. Missal’s vision is brought to life by a backing band that jives with the same old-school passion, following the lead of guitarist Ken Depoto. The chemistry could not be more natural. Memorable moments of their set included the regret-tinged, quirkily named love song “Mr. Rogers” and their cover of Marcy Playground’s ’90s grunge hit “Sex and Candy.”
Depoto’s guitar mostly kept it rhythmic and simple, stepping back to give the spotlight to Missal. One would have expected something more attention-catching, however, from a man trained in rock ’n’ roll. Sure enough, the man delivered. For their last song, Depoto took the chance to chug out a thrilling blues-rock with riffs that directly channeled Led Zeppelin. Needless to say, the Brixtons set the bar high.
The Brixtons’ no-frills performance could not be more different from the mystifying stage act of Larkin Poe. Hailing from the Deep South and co-fronted by the Lovell sisters, the band took their listeners down a swampy bayou of gin-soaked folk rock, albeit with a gothic twist. Featuring everything from mandolin solos to a chilling style of lap steel guitar, the sister songwriters created a unique sonic texture that never stopped reminding us that they’re from the South. And that’s just how they want it.
The group’s namesake is the Lovell sisters’ distant relative, apparently the cousin of Edgar Allen Poe. The Lovells take this family mythology and run with it, constructing an enigmatic stage identity as tortured Southern belles. As the band segued into their tune “Mad as a Hatter,” Rebecca Lovell paused to mention her schizophrenic grandfather and that “schizophrenia skips a generation.” The theatricality bordered on silly, but the Lovells pulled off the act with their technical prowess. Their best tunes were sprawling with dueling guitar solos, a la the Allman Brothers Band, but electrified with femme-fatale allure.
The night ended with arguably the highest-profile act. Preceded by a band dressed to the nines, Edei waltzed onto the stage, winning the crowd with her innocent smile before she warbled her first note. Edei has the potential to be the next big British songwriter with a pocketful of sunshine. She has her fair share of believers. Her music combines blue-eyed soul with an admiration for Rod Stewart. Her most famous hit yet, “Loved,” was a heartfelt love ballad mixed with a bouncing bass line reminiscent of the iconic “Stand By Me.” When it came time for her encore, the whole audience had flooded to the front to dance gleefully to her cover of Cee Lo Green’s “Forget You.” Edei has received several offers to appear on “The X Factor,” but this up-and-coming talent has much better things in store.