This series commenced at the Echo on Sunset Boulevard to see rising pop star, Empress Of, with opening acts Abra and Drool. The lovely aspect about the Echo is it’s tight-packed intimacy, where artist & audience alike can share in the same (unfortunately sweltering) experience. This also imparts more chances for artist-to-audience banter, something I feel bestows an act with more personality.
And personality came easily to each act I saw. Though I missed Drool’s opening set, I arrived in time for Atlanta-based singer Abra. With just her MacBook, Abra romped to the sounds of her beats and a surprisingly vocal fan-base near the front venue. Abra took these fans’ praise in stride, leaning in to sing a verse or snap a picture. Even she remarked upon the suffocating heat that lent many, myself included, in a thin layer of sweat, an unfortunate side effect of the Echo’s small size.
Before her set began, the empress herself, born Lorely Rodriguez, scurried around the stage, something I found very humanizing; most acts wait for dramatic entrances/lighting to make an appearance, but Rodriguez seemed more keen on a decent set than a grand entrance.
That’s not to say Empress Of doesn’t rely on a visual aspect. Utilizing simple silhouette lighting and strobes, she moved purposefully about the stage with a presence of an act much older. Her caramel-colored curls catch the light in dazzling ways when she whips around among the strobes, adding an ethereal element to her airy sound. Combined with the rumbling thumps of her backing percussionist and synthesizer, the effect was mesmerizing. She remained a singular ghostly presence amongst a flood of sound and color, a siren of a turbulent sea.
Such metaphors apply as well to her music. Tracks like “Need Myself” and “To Get By” exemplify Rodriguez’s unyielding existence, that this empress can and intend to rule on her own. Even so, she remained humbled by the wall of praise the audience gave her, and took to the merch table afterwards for meet-and-greet, where she was kind enough to sign my setlist. As Rodriguez continues onward as an artist, I think we can expect to see fascinating things from her.
“I think I’m the one I need,” and I believe her.