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Review: Anya Video Release Party @ The Usuals

In Clubs, Music
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The Usuals has been the command center for Anya and the Get Down over the last few months as the young South Bay singer-songwriter has kickstarted her solo career. Whenever I talk to her about what she’s doing—and when she plays live—she always remembers to mention and thank not only the band, but also Usuals co-owner Marie Millare and every single person she’s gathered around her: video director Brendan Van Auken, photographer Mark Sebastian, stylist Jazmine Lazzarino of 5 Color Cowboy, makeup artist Kani Cortes, the Usuals and Flora & Fauna for her wardrobe, and so on.

I never totally understood her persistent attention to detail on this stuff—like, is she just a really gracious person, or what?

But Saturday night at the Usuals, when she unveiled the video for her single “Gone Baby Gone,” I realized what it is: every piece of what Anya does is critical to her look, her style and her sound. No detail escapes her, or her team.

This was evident in her live set last night, which opened with a cover of Amy Winehouse’s “In My Bed,” and also included Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang” (“Anybody seen Kill Bill?” Anya asked before she played it) and Estelle’s “American Boy,” as well as her original songs like “Baggage” and “Runnin.” Her singing style, the band’s jams and even the song choice all reflect a heady mix of vintage nightclub swank with modern cool.

But it was even more evident in the video for “Gone Baby Gone,” which the Usuals screened right before the performance. Looking like a glossy, Vertigo-era Hitchcock film mashed up with a 21st century postmodern horror movie, it brings out the dark themes of betrayal, anger and murderous vengeance that casual listeners to the song are almost certain to miss the first time through.

A mix of rock, reggae, hip-hop and dubstep, the song is bouncy and beat-heavy enough for its meaning to fly under the radar, but the video spells out everything with a noirish plot and a building air of menace. The song is like something Winehouse herself would have written, but the look of the video captures a totally different feel—from the clothes to the hair to the way she moves, it’s all an extension of an out-of-time persona Anya has been cultivating since her earlier work with the hip-hop crew Soapbox Melodics. And that’s why the details—and the people who make them happen—are so important.

The show was packed last night, with locals Vida Killz and Rey Resurreccion bringing short opening sets. Killz started low-key, sitting down at the edge of the stage to rap “47.” But by “Oro De Corazon” just a couple of songs later, she was up and delivering that off-kilter, hair-in-her-eyes intensity that seems to smolder in her best work. Usually setting her songs to dark, glimmering beats, it was a trip to see her backed by a live acoustic guitar and drum, but it worked.

And what can you say about Rey? There’s something about his playful, San-Jose-proud swagger that is totally infectious, even in such a short set. He had Aaron Aquino (aka Squareweezy of the Bangerz) DJing, and the results were nuts. Aquino was just going off on whatever that electronic device he was fiddling with was, and they both were egging each other on. “Spaceship music, man!” shouted Rey near the end.

Though last night was the release party for Anya’s video, it won’t actually go live for a few more days. Watch this blog to see it when it does.

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