Photos and Review by Chandler Mays
Ever since the late 90s, it has seemed to me that the neo-soul trend, started by greats such as Prince and Sade, has steadily declined over the years. While that may be true, the recent Ava Luna show in East Atlanta’s Restaurant and Lounge reminded me that the genre is still alive, and also contains an abundance of potential. However, this six-member Brooklyn band is most certainly paving their own path, and I like where it’s going.
Ava Luna is a soul funk band at heart. Lead singer Carlos Hernandez struts, strums, and croons his way around stage like a white Curtis Mayfield. His voice is appropriately soulful and smooth, yet he can easily flip out and let out the raspy screams when called upon, making his presence enthrallingly unpredictable. Julian Fader plays the funky drummer part perfectly, forever preventing the audience from standing still. The bassist, aptly named Ethan Bassford, filled out the rhythm section with a leisurely poise, always grooving in the shadows at the far side of the stage.
The rest of Ava Luna’s sound is where the band starts to diverge from the typical soul/r&b stylings. Becca Kauffman and Felicia Douglas, while also participating on guitar and synths, provide unique harmonizing auxiliary vocals that swim around your head for days and induce a punch-drunk reverie. While their vocal stylings harken back to the days of 50s doo-wop singers, the melodies are dissonant, introducing uncommon sequences that titillate your brain, much like Dirty Projectors. The guitars and synths were played with staccato-like punches, which greatly help give notice to the songs’ funky syncopations. Then, when you think you’ve finally figured this band out, a song would be unexpectedly attacked by a tidal wave of post-punk distortion, drowning the groovy beats in a cacophony of sound, and all you can do is smile.
I left the show with the afterthought that there isn’t enough soul in today’s music scene, and I am grateful that there are still bands out there keeping the soul alive. Ava Luna is a great band, has a whole mess of room to grow, and I look forward to following their bittersweet harmonies into the unknown.
“Do you have soul?”
“That all depends… Did you go to the Ava Luna show?”
Full Gallery after the jump…