In a world where music is at consumers' fingertips, new parties and ventures aiming to capture the attention of the public must make a good first impression. Last night, British Airways did just that, launching their newest benefit for customers flying the skies with them: an exclusive music series aimed at bringing the UK's sounds to eager fans. Listen Up will allow in-flight access to special artist spotlights, live performances, videos and photo diaries, while highlighting the live music events, festivals and venues that make the British music scene so unique. And while many of you who read EARMILK regularly might associate the UK with recent big movements in hip hop, the revival of garage and jackin' house and nu disco, British Airways's music stream seeks to spread the wealth that UK artists have to offer across the globe. With destinations like London and Ibiza on their map, the launch of Listen Up is a reminder that we can not only experience music through our headphones, but that traveling allows us to discover and experience new music in its best form: live.
To celebrate Listen Up, British Airways threw an impressive party that would provide show goers with a unique experience with some of the UK's finest musical talent in an intimate Brooklyn venue. Aiding in the party last night was Jamie N Commons, Bear's Den, Leon Bridges and Pete Tong.
Starting at sundown in Williamsburg's Villain, people slowly filed into the multiple rooms of the brick-lined, string light filled venue. Flanked with multiple bars, a stage-style photo booth and a VIP level, the flow of the space would mirror the ease in flow of the musical entertainment for the night.
First up was Jamie N Commons, a singer-songwriter whose laid back sound helped warm up the crowd. Invoking Elvis Costello throughout his indie, blues-influenced set, the Bristol-born musician played hits like his "Jungle" through soulful, yet minimal support on stage.
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Kicking it up a notch were Bear's Den, a boisterous trio whose focus on classic rock folk music debuted with their album Islands back in October of 2014. It's apparent that West London-based trio has made headway in America already, with the crowd's excitement at each song they played and those who couldn't get their phones out fast enough to video their favorite song live.
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Once Bear's Den finished up their set, the crowd in the room seemed to double in size and in density, for what was clear to be the most anticipated act of the night. Leon Bridges made his way through the crowd before his performance, donning a classic 1950's style suit and a particularly trimmed clean haircut. The R&B singer has made waves with his authentically 1950s and 60s style soul music, earning him praise as a modern day Sam Cooke. Opening with his latest hit "Better Man," Bridges led the crowd through a performance filled with doo wops and mesmerizing pre-Motown blues riffs. And though he's American-born, he's been wildly popular in the usually retro outlooking Brit pop scene.
Closing the show was the impeccable Pete Tong. A veteran producer and DJ, Tong has been an innovator in the dance music scene since its inception, a proponent and catalyst for the success of the summer season in Ibiza, and of course, a master MC and tastemaker through his weekly radio show on BBC Radio 1. Leaving the audience in anxious waiting while the mood in the room quickly turned deeper and darker, Tong launched his DJ set with edgy nu disco, using the immense set-building experience he's garnered in his 30-years of experience. With the crowd watching and experiencing his musical architectural skills as the music ebbed and flowed, the energy quickly increased with the play of UK dance's latest stars Disclosure's most recent track, "Bang That." From there on out, Tong's control over the room's persistent energy was palpable, and the perfect way to end the night full of impressive music.
Photo credits: Nicky Digital