Last night, people packed Rickshaw Stop to see the Seshen, the Oakland R&B/jazz/soul/whatever-genre-they-feel-like group that’s we’ve seen in settings as varied as Outside Lands and London. However, the standout to me was Oakland’s Mahawam.
The Seshen were reliably good (actually, they were great), but during Mahawam’s opening set, it became crystal clear why our writers have been praising them since early in their career — they present an alluring mix of R&B, hip-hop, pop, and electronic. The music can be a bit serious, but it’s broken up by their charming stage presence: In-between asides were filled with humor, bold statements, and a genuine love for the other musicians and the audience. For more about them, please refer to JD’s stellar review of their mold-breaking show from last year.
The night began with the premiere of a short film built around the Seshen’s new album, CYAN. Personally, experimental films go right over my head, but add some local music and you have my attention. Directed by Dominic Mercurio, the film featured arresting visuals starring lead singer Lalin St. Juste. We’ve long loved St. Juste’s ability to interpret the soul of a song in her voice and even her body language, and the film was a new way to display her power as a performer, and a new way for me to get lost in the music.
It was also a night to spotlight the immense talent that’s been blooming in the East Bay for decades. Oakland’s Emily Afton took us on a tour of a few yearning tunes bolstered by sparkling guitar and rich vocals that inspired some in the crowd to slow dance. When the Seshen took the stage after, they started off with a roll call of regions, starting by asking if the East Bay was in the house. The cheers for the East Bay was markedly louder than that for SF — an audible testament to the complicated web of housing prices, job insecurity, city regulations, and more that has shifted much of the arts to the Oakland area in the last few years.
One thing that struck me was how much the bands gave heaps of credit and praise to one another — and it sounded genuine. Mahawam called the Seshen “God’s gift to the earth” (and who can disagree?). They even coordinated their outfits — Mahawam’s collared jumpsuit presence made a whole lot more sense when Emily Afton, in a work shirt, pointed out that they were both in gas station themed outfits “Because