“It’s my friend’s birthday!” a concertgoer yelled during a quiet moment in Steve Lacy’s set at day two of Re:SET.
“I don’t give a damn!” Steve Lacy replied. “Happy birthday, friend! No tea, no shade. I just don’t give a damn.” This charming moment of audience interaction is the perfect encapsulation of that night of performances: quirky, unique and forceful.
Last Saturday was yet another triumph at Stanford’s Frost Amphitheater. As one of the first hosts of the innovative new festival Re:SET, Stanford saw some of the most notable artists in the country performing a dozen sets over the weekend. For day two, Steve Lacy headlined with James Blake, Toro y Moi and Fousheé supporting.
Fousheé’s intimate opening set primed the crowd for day two of Re:SET. She sang in front of two large mirrors that reflected her body, her audience and the trees surrounding the amphitheater. Fousheé hypnotized the crowd, pairing her raspy voice with acoustic guitar to great effect.
Toro y Moi and his band took the stage shortly thereafter as the sun began to set. With a sound palette of smooth ’80s synths, booming bass and beautiful vocals, the artist represented the peak of the Internet genre of chillwave.
The music itself was fantastic. Even with only four performers on stage, each song was packed with rich psychedelic detail and crafted from a soundscape of unique synthesizers. There were dozens of catchy synth melodies and vocal hooks written into each composition as well. Overall, I could not have been more satisfied.
One of the most captivating parts of Toro y Moi’s performance was how smooth and beautiful his voice sounded: even when chatting with the audience between tracks, he sounded luscious! His crystal-clear enunciation stood out among all of the artists I’ve seen live — let’s just say that he would make a great radio show host.
On the topic of great voices, James Blake came out as the third and final opening act. The British R&B singer, songwriter and producer was a welcome addition to the lineup, bringing the strongest and saddest emotions to Re:SET that day. Unlike the upbeat Lacy or groovy Toro y Moi, Blake worked best with the sparse R&B backing that let his dynamic baritone vocals shine.
He played quite a few covers, including Frank Ocean’s “Godspeed” (a song Blake produced for Ocean) and “Hope She’ll Be Happier” by Bill Withers. He made each of these songs into his own through minimalist, piano-driven beauty — they blended right in with the rest of his set.
The 6’5” artist towered over everyone else around him, but he also exuded sensitivity and thoughtfulness. In fact, after his set, he gently made his way into the crowd to take photos with excited fans. It was a sweet moment that broke the barriers between artist and audience.
Steve Lacy arrived about 15 minutes late — being the first artist to not come out on time for the entire festival (an impressive feat for the organizers to say the least). After receiving approximately four straight minutes of cheering over an instrumental version of “Cody Freestyle,” Lacy broke from his static robotic pose into “Helmet,” a highlight from his new viral sensation record “Gemini Rights.”
Lacy brought one of the best backing bands I’ve seen at Re:SET so far. His drummer was dominating his kit with bold fills and dynamic, in-the-pocket playing. However, Lacy’s stage setup was not at all conducive in highlighting the work of these hard-working musicians. From my perspective, on the right side of the front row, I could barely see them behind a large screen projecting random b-roll footage behind Lacy.
The show would have greatly benefited from someone other than Lacy being the only person visible for most of the concert. For the entire performance, I could only think, “Lacy, don’t hide your musicians!”
However, he’s still a compelling stage presence in his own right. His vocals were consistently spot on, with him even making the note that he “doesn’t use Autotune.” He brought a radiant energy to everything from his massive hits to deeper cuts from his greater discography.
While performing the stunning “Sunshine,” which features Fousheé, he actually brought her back on stage for a duet! This was a nice bow to tie together the event. Lacy went out with a bang with two of his finest (and biggest) hits, “Bad Habit” and “Dark Red.”
Overall, Re:SET day two did not disappoint. The festival used day two to highlight more popular music with a well-paced, perfect lineup. It was, quite simply, a smooth and well-organized event featuring great music and even greater energy.
Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective thoughts, opinions and critiques.