How to Dress Well crafted an intimate spectacle in the intimate Casbah midway through his tour.
The show kicked off with the efforts of up-and-coming San Diego pop/funk outfit JARA. Bass fills and guitar were peppered throughout JARA’s set, lending satisfying musicianship cred to a performance drenched in ‘80s nostalgia. Their vocalist worked to engage the audience while investing himself in his act. His knife-shaped earring was a nice touch, as well. JARA’s performance of their newly-release track Something Else was a particular highlight, brimming full of catchy melodies and a whimsical energy.
Even with JARA’s valiant effort, the Casbah couldn’t help feeling a little empty. It was a Tuesday night after all, and folks had seemingly chosen to stay at home for this rare, chilly San Diego evening. One could forgive a headlining artist for seeming put out by a scant showing of 30 or so people. However, when How to Dress Well’s Tom Krell walked on stage, he instantly transformed the environment to one of a cozy living room or a friend’s backyard. Standing in front of a projected screen of choreographed visuals, Krell’s presence was wholly immersive. Even more striking than the visuals was his obvious comfort on stage; Throughout the performance, he switched smoothly between twin effects desks on either end of the stage, using two differently distorted microphones to transform his voice into a wonderfully versatile instrument.
The set consisted mainly of tracks pulled from How to Dress Well’s latest record, The Anteroom, released in late October. The experimental R&B artist highlighted the experimental side of his music in this, with screams and sharp basslines not present in his records appearing during the climax. For an artist so adept at crafting pleasant, addictive melodies, the contrast of affective appeal through sheer intensity was striking. Equal parts pop performance and art show, pleasant and visceral, How to Dress Well’s visit to the Casbah left an emotional imprint on each member of the audience.