By Patrick O’Heffernan and BINX
(Hollywood) When we think of “healing music” what often comes to mind are the languorous strains of Steve Halpern or ragas for meditation. That music can be healing, but they are not the only kinds of music that can restore us; there is music that can also turn personal pain into power, the power to defeat your demons, to live life no matter what, to shed fear. This is what the electro pop singer X.ARI has been doing for most of her musical life, using music to turn pain into power. She showed us how she does that at Hollywood’s edgy Sayers Club in the release show for her breathtaking new EP, Dis-Order.
X.ARI’s interior world has always been different, painful, sometimes close to suicidal. Music is her treatment, her unapologetic voice that rocks, croons and screams in catharsis. She is always on the edge in her performance, her costume, her songwriting. Her concerts are a kind of electric shock treatment cum psychotherapy done in public. They come leavened with a strong dose of love from and to the stage. By way of explanation, she says that “I became a psych major so I could figure out what the hell was wrong with me — I actively avoided music because of previous experiences I’d had. However, I ended up in the music building.” Her fans – which include me – are so glad she did.
Sayers was perfect for X.ARI. Intimate, yet not small, comfortable, yet packed with the latest in concert technology, high end sound, swirling smoke and lights. It allows her to create not only a mood, but to draw us into her interior world. She started this process of breaking down the walls, pushing out conformity and letting us see the calm and chaos that can inhabit her with debut album Tunnel Vision. The performance at Sayers took the next step into Dis.Order.
With her hair shortened and slicked back, a black and white halter with “Love Me” across her chest, and gleaming pantaloons, she presented a joyful, if unusual creature on stage. Reaching out to the audience with her long muscular arms she welcomed the room with “Kingdoms Fall”, and immediately the crowd gave her it’s full attention.
Dancing across the stage, X.ARI set the tone – this was not going to be a run-of-the-mil- pop concert. “Kingdoms Fall” was not a warmup song; it was fully engaged. She moved onto the previously released “Vapors”, a high gloss, almost sunny song musically whose lyrics tell a dark story of a couple in an addictive toxic relationship. Eyes glittering with excitement, X.ARI then ramped up the energy with “Stay v Go” as the audience followed her stage gyrations with cheers and sang “If you wanna stay say BOOM BOOM” along with her.
The night moved from the stratosphere into outer space as X.ARI turned to the heart-wrenching “Miss You”, a metaphor for more than just lost love. We had heard the X.ARI scream earlier, but in “Miss You” she took the mic forcefully, threw her head back and filled the room with the cathartic primal scream she is known for, repeating it again toward the end of the song as the strobes flashed blue and she receded into a fog of light and sound.
The blue lighting shifted to blood red as X.ARI sang “Flashbacks”, lamenting the pain of over and over again, dancing across the stage with the statico beat of her drummer. Everything came to a stop as the music wound down and X.ARI readied herself for the angry “Cattle Call”. After setting up her program and dancing away from the keyboard and computer rig, she stood still in front of the mic, head down, eyes closed, arms lose at her sides, and went silent. We watched in real time as she stared into her interior, a dreamy Theremin soundtrack rose behind her. More than the singing, the screaming, or the dancing, the 15 seconds X.ARI let us watch her be unafraid of silence, created a bond. Then the drum began its volley and she losed the anger.
“Cattle Call” was released earlier this year as a single with a striking cover of nude female statue who’s arms lay on the ground – a symbol of beautiful helplessness. X.ARI is beautiful both inside and on the surface, but she is anything but helpless, and she showed it by launching into a power scream that lit up the room and energized the audience ever more than they were. It was what they were there for. X.ARI wrapped up the night with the unreleased “Breakpoint”, not yet part of the digital EP but hopefully out soon. Then, covered with sweat but glowing with energy, she thanked the audience and bid a happy, if wrung out room, good night.
BINX is an LA-based pop singer/songwriter and video blogger
(all photos and videos by BINX)