Thirdstory delivers captivating covers, heartfelt harmonies at the Fox Theater

Alexandre Bui/Staff

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On the night of May 19, Oakland was jam-packed with fans eager to see Grammy-nominated artist Tori Kelly illuminate her show-stopping vocals on center stage. Yet, what the audience did not anticipate was being blown away by the night’s opening act. As Thirdstory slowly emerged onto the pitch black platform, looks of surprise fluttered through the crowd. The Fox Theater, swarmed with loud laughter and lively conversations only moments before, was now dead silent as the members of Thirdstory — Elliott Skinner, Richard Saunders and Ben Lusher — submerged the audience in a musical flurry.

Joining Tori Kelly on her recently finished Unbreakable Tour and recording singles for its newly released Searching EP, produced by Malay (Frank Ocean, Zayn), Thirdstory is venturing into stardom with an electrifying sound and presence. A band that blends hip-hop and folk with romance and heartbreak, the trio took everyone’s breath away with beaming smiles and intense energy.

Thirdstory, a NYC-based trio, was selling out shows before it signed to a label or began recording music. Each member came from a different part of the world — Lusher a native of Bermuda and Saunders from Connecticut — before connecting in New York City and creating their own R&B/indie sound. They rose to fame much like Tori Kelly by posting covers on YouTube, and it was their jaw dropping rendition of Sam Smith’s “I’m Not The Only One” that ultimately secured them the record deal.

The band began its show with an original cover of Taylor Swift’s “Style,” consequently releasing eager cries of approval from the audience. The fangirling was at an all-time high in response to this alternative version of the song with a hip-hop beat. The trio proceeded to play many covers throughout the night, many of which blended various instruments, including the acoustic guitar, to make way for a fresh, soulful sound. After a year spent in the studio experimenting with its sound, Thirdstory’s character was evident through the band members’ tender, heartfelt vocals and interpretations of well-known songs.

“G Train,” the fourth tune of the night, traced back to the band’s original roots in NYC. By comparing a subway line to the search for romance, the band shares in the frustrations of finding love in the city that never sleeps and alludes to the wandering thoughts one has throughout the night. In an exclusive interview with Billboard, the trio opened up on how the gut-wrenching melody skyrocketed into a hit: “The song combines a lot of sounds we love: in-your-face drums, soulful vocals and three-part harmony. We started writing it on a subway platform, and it’s evolved into one of our favorite songs to perform on stage.”

Similarly, in Thirdstory’s most popular single, “Searching For A Feeling,” the band croons, “Tell me you want me / Tell me you need me to love you / I’ll be searching everywhere.” This song recounts a desire for an all-consuming love, and this hunger for a feeling of wholeness fostered a sense of vulnerability in the crowd. A melody tinged with recollection and regret, the trio successfully connected to swaying fans with a soft tone and steady pace.

Thirdstory’s onstage energy fused with its original voice sparked the audience’s interest, consequently getting everyone energized and on their feet for Tori Kelly. It is easy to sometimes believe that you are the only one struggling with the disappointments of romance, but Thirdstory’s painfully honest tunes remind us that we are not alone. The tender and emotional lyrics create the perfect backdrop for a late-night drive and make you believe that love — the real kind — is out there and that it will find you.

Contact Mana Anvar at [email protected].