The Tontons Warehouse Live March 1, 2014
Saturday night, at half past 11 p.m., Asli Omar sauntered out onto the stage at Warehouse Live. A solitary light beamed down on her, illuminating her white dress as she crooned to the crowd.
Guitarist Adam Martinez, bassist Tom Nguyen and stand-in drummer Sean Hart of Caddywhompus remained in the background, shrouded in darkness. The crowd stood still, in rapt silence save for a few hoots and hollers encouraging Omar between vocal lines.
"Slowly turn me into something not quite real," she sang. "Aren't you afraid of loving me so much? Show me if you think I've made a grave mistake."
It felt as if Omar was asking if she was truly worth their admiration. Could they be turning her into something she's not, placing the Tontons on a pedestal of which they aren't worthy? And to that, the crowd responded with a resounding, "No."
Omar, Nguyen and the Martinez brothers are the real deal. They are authentic, homegrown musicians worthy of our praise, our attention and, most importantly, our ears. And for an hour Saturday night, they proved as much with energetic guitar riffs, chest-pounding bass lines and percussion, all played underneath soulful vocals and heartfelt lyricism.
The soft, sweet undertones of "Lonely," coupled with Omar's whispering voice, were a fitting opener for a show that didn't feel quite real itself. It certainly didn't feel like an album release for a local act. It felt bigger, like a shift in momentum for a group that has both come so far and is still rising.
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Splitting up their set list between cuts off the just-released Make Out King and Other Stories of Love and reaching back to songs Omar wrote when she was 17, the Tontons held the crowd's attention without the aid of any gimmicks. Instead, their strong musicianship more than substantiated the cost of admission.
The Tontons haven't made a grave mistake. Their refreshing, honest blend of indie-rock and soul is continuing to develop and evolve as it reaches an ever-growing fan base. It's pleasing to the ears but lacks the counterfeit feel of radio-friendly pop music.
Fans want them for all they lack.
Lonely So Tired Pony Syrup Magic Hour Kidd Cemetery Paradise Wild Kind Veida Love Fool (The Cardigans cover) Bones 1 Never Never
Golden Bones 2 Let Me Roll With It (Paul McCartney cover)
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