The deep, red lights in the House of Blues gradually shifted to a blue hue as Elbee Thrie sat slumped on the steps beneath Aja Grant. Grant played the keyboard while Thrie, dreads covering his face, belted out soft, soulful notes. Bass guitarists, Bari Bass, stood on top of a speaker on the side of the stage while the other guitarist, Elijah Rawk, walked through the crowd, plucking on his instrument. Thrie slowly stood up, brushing his hair out of his face while slowly raising the pitch of his voice. Drummer, Matt Byas, began the slow, pounding thud of his bass drum as the music began to crescendo.
The room lit up as the audience flashed lights from their phones and recorded the band, all in various points of the room but playing together. Rawk danced salsa alongside an audience member while his fingers ran up and down the guitar. Couples hugged and spun around each other as Thrie and Bass paced the stage and leaned into the audience. The band, Phony Ppl, was performing the second show of their first headlining tour in downtown Houston.
“Houston! Give it up for the amazing Aja Grant!” exclaimed Thrie as he cupped the microphone and gazed out into the crowd. “We want to thank each and everyone that came out and supported. If you bought our album, mo-za-ik, or if you bought merch—”
The singer abruptly stopped as a fan held up a pink T-shirt.
“We have new merch,” he laughed. “If you’ve picked up a shirt then you’re better than me. I haven’t even gotten one yet.”
The group touched down in Houston on the second stop of their first headlining tour.
Photo by David "Odiwams" Wright
The group hailing from Brooklyn, look young but their musicality displays the maturity of a group that has been playing together for ten plus years. When the Houston Press
spoke with the band a week earlier Thrie talked about how the band came together.
“The first time we played together it felt real. It was my 16th birthday and all my musician friends came out to my house because I was in trouble. I was grounded. We made our first song right there. It was understandable. It had a format. The second time we got together we made our second song. Over the years we just kept making music and people kept responding to it and that just gave us hope that we could do this as a real career. We went from our parents knowing our music because they’re walking around the house while were playing to people that we’ve never met from other countries becoming fans of what we’ve created.”
What the group has created is a mix of rock, jazz, Bosa Nova, Hip Hop and so much more. The crowd gathered at the House of Blues Monday night experienced all Phony Ppl had to offer as the group ran through hits like “Way Too Far” and “Before You Get A Boyfriend” as well as a few songs that the band plans on putting on the next album.
While on tour the band is continuing to work on a new album with the goal of still offering the same diverse sound that has gained the attention of artists like Tyler The Creator, Erykah Badu, and Vince Staples. When asked about the worry of being musically pigeonholed Grant responded with little worry.
Houstonians experienced the live Brooklyn sound.
Photo by David "Odiwams" Wright
“I think what’s great about today’s music is that it is so accessible and the ability to discover is so wide that I don’t think people really get judged that much for listening to different types of it. There are so many different genres you can hear and right now we’re not thinking about categories. We’re just doing it for the love. Our genre is just the love of music.”