Theophilus London

Hennessy Black Presents: Summer Done Different

Theophilus London

Kenna, Blah Blah Blah

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Doors: 7:30 pm / Show: 8:30 pm


This event is 21 and over

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Theophilus London
Theophilus London
Theophilus London is a rapper, songwriter and producer from Brooklyn. Fader magazine places him at the center of the borough’s new urban-pop movement, while UK music weekly NME goes in a bit further: ”... his patter is sumptuous, his look untouchable, his soundscapes plucked from mythical ghetto neverlands … he’s the real deal.” His first mixtape, JAM!, was a buzzy DIY effort that tipped off early adopters in the underground, but it was the independent release of This Charming Mixtape via his brand the Lovers in early 2009 that introduced London’s voracious pop appetite and minted him as an artist to watch beyond mere hype. Gliding effortlessly from clubby original productions to 90s rave throwbacks, afropop electrojams, Kraftwerk samples, a backbreaking bass refix of a Whitney Houston torch song—all of it stitched together with London’s breathy, unpredictable flow—This Charming Mixtape’s wildfire appeal soon saw London igniting clubs in Europe and America with stunning live performances. It’s possible this is the arrival of a once-in-a-generation talent: Theophilus London is very much in this moment but not of it. He is currently at work on his debut album.
The first rule of understanding Kenna is to really believe him when he says his name means "to get what you want." A couple years after completing his debut record—the interim hallmarked by his own fittingly monumental climb to Mount Kilimanjaro to "find "himself"—Kenna is here again to take back his name.

Kenna Zemedkun (ZUH-MED-KIN), was born in Addis Ababa. His family migrated to Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he first fell deep in love with American music, specifically U2's Joshua Tree, an album that would forever shape his sonic aesthetic. For many years he struggled to find himself, working odd jobs and attending college. Until in his late teens he returned to his first love: music. With high school classmate "Chase" Chad Hugo—one half of production powerhouse The Neptunes—engineering and co writing the material, the demo got to Flawless Records where he was signed without so much as a face-to-face meeting. New Sacred Cow came out humbly in 2003 on Columbia Records to substantial critical acclaim, a loyal underground fan base, and
millions of online downloads and file sharing. Two videos (of
singles "Freetime" and "Hell Bent") enjoyed heavy rotation on MTV2,
leading to two MTV video noms for Breakthrough Video. After an
opening slot on Depeche Mode frontman Dave Gahan's solo tour, and several tour dates with No Doubt, Kenna found his identity caught somewhere nebulous, halfway between the weird-science underground and the gloss-and-finish mainstream. A few years ago, the entertainment industry, much less commercial radio, may well not have been ready for Kenna to bust out with an essentially New Wave record, particularly one that was embedded with influences so eclectic it spanned everything from synth pop to punk rock to hip hop to electronica. A point that was made most convincingly by author and marketing guru, Malcolm Gladwell, in his 2005 best-selling book Blink, where he devoted an entire chapter to this subject entitled "Kenna's Dilemma".

Ask production impresario Pharrell Williams what his old friend and colleague Kenna evokes for him and you'll get "the world will be singing songs of honesty along with audiences in cellphone-lit stadiums…"

Indeed Make Sure They See My Face (FACE) is the long-awaited follow-up experiment, co produced by Hugo and this time featuring select tracks from the other Neptune, Williams. When East Village Radio VJ Mark Ronson played the first single "Out of Control" on his "Authentic Shit" show, the internet underground was set a-buzz; when it served as the soundtrack to the recent Sony PSP commercials his growing mainstream cred enjoyed a serious catapulting. Then there's the album itself—fresher than ever, cultivating a stream of truly future sonics with ample homage to past ripples in rock and soul, the Kenna sound feels grown into, comfortable, true. Less dark than the debut, Hugo explains the sound they came up with this time around as "artful, dynamic, otherworldly and catchy. Something that is needed right now.
It's progressive music." FACE veers more on the up-tempo, with several dance tracks that showcase The Neptunes's street sleight-of-hand theatrics alongside Kenna's lothario-dark-rock wailing melodics. The dizzying "Daylight" is jump-started with an almost 70s prog rock pulse and the hypnotic "Phantom Always" even flirts with arena rock atmospherics, while "Better Wise Up" lays bare an intricate art rock heart. Best of all, the ballad "Baptized in Blacklight" is a pining lamentation that breaks down the entire album in its magic hour.
Everything is faced, no questions are left unanswered, and nothing is holding him back this time around. The sophomore effort is Kenna's most celebratory confessional, irony-free, homage-less, simply the testament of a man who can't help but possess the essence of a new era and the sound of an irreplaceable place, all with lyrics that convey an almost proverbial timelessness. Ample doses of mystery keep the cult in a paradoxically satisfying crave-state; as Kenna himself only gives away so much when he says, "[FACE] is a story from start to finish. A search for identity. A willingness to go to extremes to find the truth and balance. Stretching. Attempting. Failing. Attempting again. Getting back up and hoping for the best. All the while, finding yourself growing and becoming more aware and comfortable with imperfection. That's [FACE], from 'Daylight' to 'Wide Awake.'"
Blah Blah Blah
Blah Blah Blah
In a time when most artists spend the bulk of their energy trying to brainstorm over clever band names and contrived marketing schemes, it's refreshing to see a group that picks honesty over hyperbole. With that very notion in mind, the members in Chicago's beloved Blah Blah Blah, decided long ago that the music is what matters the most. And who can blame them? With an unassuming name like that, you better make damn sure that your music is way better than just good enough.

Comprised of two friends from Iowa and two Chicago musicians, the midwest quartet really found their footing in 2010 after being voted one of the Chicago Tribune's next bands on the verge of breaking BIG! While pioneering the genre of ballroom rock, the band has continually won fans over with their emotionally-driven yet upbeat songs that playfully strike a balance between the alternative and organic. With a revitalized sense of vibrance and a newly recorded EP on the horizon this fall, it's not hard to see why the band is so optimistic about the next chapter of its career.

For the last project, "Thank You Thank You", the band decided to ditch the ease of digital and embrace the techniques of yester-year. By recording the entire EP in analog reel-to-reel on 2-inch tape, they convincingly proved the adage, that sometimes you have to take a step back to truly move forward. With the help of music vets, like producer Matt Walker (Morrissey, Smashing Pumpkins) and engineer Sean O'Keefe (Fall Out Boy, Motion City Soundtrack, Less than Jake), the new recordings serve as a magnum opus for the band and a beacon of hope for indie music.

After touring nationally during the fall-winter, Blah Blah Blah headed to Los Angeles again in February during Grammy weekend for Pre-Grammy events hosted by Garth Trinidad (KCRW). The band is currently recording it’s debut album. The bands much improved live show is something not to be missed.
Venue Information:
Double Door
1572 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL, 60622