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Arts & Entertainment

Hiatus Kaiyote brings its neo-soul to the El Rey Theatre

Neo-soul has returned with a futuristic twist and Hiatus Kaiyote is leading the movement.

Hiatus Kaiyote, a quartet from Melbourne, Australia, played two sold-out shows in Los Angeles this past weekend as part of its world tour for its new album, “Choose Your Weapon.” To make matters more exciting, the group chose the El Rey Theatre, a decently sized venue lined with red carpet – yes, even on the walls – and intricate glass chandeliers.

The act, well known for bringing back neo-soul from the late 1990s, includes vocalist and guitarist Nai Palm and band members Paul Bender, Simon Mavin and Perrin Moss.

It’s been two years since Hiatus Kaiyote released an album, and “Choose Your Weapon” has come as a gift to all of us. Its 2013 album, “Tawk Tomahawk,” is what caught my eye, but the new album seems to pave the way for a new style of funky rhythmic shifts with hints of punk rock instrumentals.

In the midst of a trendy crowd, all dressed in forms of vintage fringe and New Member jackets, Knxwledge opened up the show with hip-hop remixes of tracks by Kendrick Lamar and Dr. Dre. You heard that right. Knxwledge, the opener for this year’s Bruin Bash that wasn’t too well received, opened for Hiatus Kaiyote.

I laughed to myself at the coincidence and couldn’t help but roll my eyes in memory of how poorly the crowd received his opening act. This crowd seemed to agree as they responded with some side conversations and yawns. Queen Magic, another opener, took over to perform some of his songs that have been trending on Soundcloud. The crowd loved Queen Magic, especially when he brought out an interpretive dancer for his last song. It was unexpected and that’s exactly what the crowd needed.

After almost two hours of openers and a pair of numb feet, the crowd was greeted by Hiatus Kaiyote with “Choose Your Weapon,” enticing the crowd with the band’s idiosyncratic keyboard drift and gritty bass. The song, filled with diverse grooves and electronic additives, sounded like the beginning of a ’90s video game but to many it was a preview of the wild journey the night was about to become.

In between songs, Nai Palm explained that Japanese anime influenced many of her songs, especially “Laputa.” In this particular song, Hiatus Kaiyote demonstrated something nostalgic in that the band brought back the slow easy drifts, a technique the group based its last album off of. The swaying crowd basked in the purple stage lights. For those five minutes, the El Rey seemed to be at peace.

The quartet then switched up the mood with “Breathing Underwater,” a musical tribute to Stevie Wonder, allowing Palm to display her incredibly talented guitar solos. The band flipped the tempo playfully throughout the track, making it easy to spot the shoulder-dancers in the crowd who weren’t familiar with the song.

“Prince Minikid” and “Jekyll,” two songs that spotlight the Afro-beat ballads and intense funk vibes, were recent additions to the lineup. The new songs on this album definitely strayed away from classic neo-soul and distinguished themselves individually with a splash of funky, spooky, orchestral and rhythmic concord.

Hearing “Molasses,” one of the album’s most decorative songs, sent exhilarating chills down my back; it was almost terrifying to feel the bass vibrating in my bones accompanied by Palm’s silky voice. The crowd loved “Molasses” – we attempted to sing along, but quickly realized that we couldn’t keep up with Palm’s next-level voice.

For $40, Hiatus Kaiyote provided an A-plus night to old and new listeners not only with an excellent execution of their musical charisma but also with the group’s humility, as Palm was constantly thanking the crowd. My favorite song “Fingerprints” wasn’t performed, but I guess that’s just another excuse for me to catch them at Hiatus Kaiyote’s next American tour.

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Culture

Journalism, the Trading Card Game

As journalists, our trade is stories.

Listen in on a gathering of journalists out to dinner – or more likely out for drinks – and you’re likely to hear sophisticated talk about the advances in data journalism or high-minded conversation about ethical considerations of publication, wedged in between the gallows humor that describes the state of the industry, and how we’ll end up broke and on the streets with only our humanities degrees to keep us warm.

But stay long enough and you’ll get to the real meat.

Here’s an observation for you: In any discussion between journalists given enough time, you’ll start to hear other people’s stories exchanged like Pokémon cards on the third grade open market.

Do you have the one with the lady with quite obvious mental health issues who regularly barnstorms city council meetings? How about the one about the professor publicly ridiculed for his race at a professional event? The one about the recovering Catholic with an autistic son and a gay best friend?

We’re not doctors or lawyers and we don’t have the same sort of rules governing interactions with our sources. The relationship between a subject and a reporter is somewhat more tenuous under the Obama administration, and without thesame privileges. But in any case, how could we not gleefully blab? It’s only a natural qualification of our jobs.

I don’t know when I first realized the profession that I fully intend to pursue in post-collegiate life is inherently immoral.

It might have been when I first talked to a woman who opened up about discrimination she experienced throughout her career. I turned around and made it a lede.

Or it could have been when I had a conversation with a homeless guy from Alaska, snatched a few quotes from him and left him in line at the shelter.

Or maybe it was when I first read Janet Malcolm’s indispensable work on journalism ethics, “The Journalist and the Murderer.” In the first paragraph of the book, she lays it out quite bare and beautifully. “Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible,” she writes.

I was talking to a fellow young aspiring journalist a few weeks ago and asked her why she got into the profession. She answered that she “wanted to tell the stories of people who couldn’t do it themselves.”

It’s a sentiment I might have spouted off a few years ago if you asked me the same question, but I’ve discarded it for the incredibly patronizing reasoning. I believe I’ve come to terms with the fact that I love journalism for the baser reasons of my personality, along with my better angels.

The gossiper that digs up mud on celebrities on TMZ? There but for the grace of God (or Harvey Levin) go I.

The big ego who needs to know things before other people and make sure everyone else knows it. Well there’s a reason why Twitter is mainly popular with celebrities and journalists.

Even the quiet, but relentless ambition. Which I would contend makes me a hungry reporter, but others have chalked up as just being nosy.

The thing is I think I’ve done good work even with this realization, or maybe in small part because of it. I’ve looked into the tamping down of free speech on college campuses, the plight of street-food vendors on Los Angeles sidewalks and even the occasional missing tortoise.

So much for my short-lived efforts to steer clear of shameless self-promotion.

All this is not to say that journalism is a bad field and I hope no one thinks I’m discouraging anyone to get into it – far from it. Being all those things doesn’t preclude you from being honest, brave and, most importantly, compassionate. While the practice of journalism may sometimes be distasteful, its fruits can be quite nourishing.

We need the gossipers, the ambitious and the talented with enormous egos. These are the ones who write brilliantly about the state of healthcare in America using the example of the veteran who can’t get his medication, the ones who risk their lives trying to get the real story out from war zones and the ones who help lead the charge in taking down a corrupt team owner caught with his pants down.

I’m just letting you in on a secret: Journalism – even (or especially) if performed with good intentions – is still just journalism.

But all of this comes from one. So take that with a grain of salt, or better yet, a shot of whiskey.

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Culture

Kelly Yeo: On friendship and first week

For the first time after two years of party-going at UCLA, I went to a party and actually made friends with people I didn’t know.

The layout was the usual: beer pong, jungle juice, a Spotify playlist on someone’s phone with tiny speakers blaring. There was the never-ending din of conversations I don’t care about, complaints about classes I’ll never take and organizations I’ll probably never join. As you can tell, large apartment parties have never held any magic for me. Mostly, I felt obligated to pay a visit to see my friend, one of the hosts, and then leave.

I’m not sure if it was my mood, or the people who happened to be there, but several hours and tequila pulls later, I ended up in a very real conversation as a group of us attended to a girl vomiting over the side of the balcony. It was one of those glorious cinematic moments where you break through all the drunken awkwardness to really, truly talk.

People may go on and on about how UCLA has a place for everyone, but given the scale of campus and the hundreds of organizations, it can feel pretty hard trying to find your “people.” Your “people”: the friends with whom doing nothing feels like something. Hours fly by. Papers go unwritten and amino acids go unmemorized. And when you’re finally alone in your room, you know it was all worth it.

Some are lucky, hitting it off with their orientation or first-year dorm friends, the rock of their social lives solidifying early on. Others take longer, and some of us will leave UCLA without ever truly having a group of friends to call their “people,” even as we claim membership to fraternities, sororities, dance teams, service organizations and so on.

I’m not ashamed to say it hasn’t happened for me yet, although in this age of social media, there’s pressure to make everyone think you’re having the time of your life at UCLA. We live curated lives, posting photos and sharing only the news we want people to know about. People post about their besties and their squads, even if the scenario that these relationships are superficial and primarily based on affiliation is well within the realm of possibilities. The rest of the world may not be immune, but UCLA, and many other colleges, are diseased in that regard: Aren’t your years in college supposed to be the best years of your life?

Fake it until you make it, I suppose.

As a third-year student, I don’t expect a lot from folks in terms of making real platonic connections. The first-year social Rumspringa has petered out fully, and we identify ourselves by our majors and our organizations. We’re all busy people: studying, working, going to the gym, doing research, spending time with the friends we’ve already made, dating and engaged in extracurricular commitments and internships. I’ve made friends, though they’re spread out, involved in everything from Model United Nations to a cappella groups.

That night at the party, a group of strangers talked about break-ups and cats, holding back the hair of a girl we’d just met. Friend requests followed, and the next morning, I found myself joking around on Facebook Messenger with these people whom I am never going to encounter in my pre-med or major classes.

Whether these people end up being my “people” or just friends I’ll see every now and then, it’s nice to know that in a world of perpetually busy UCLA students who seem to have it all figured out, some of us are still open to new friendships, new connections, no longer closed for business on the friendship front, even as the more seasoned among us inch past second year and into our home stretch of college.

The at-times superficial social networks formed by extracurricular activities, social organizations and major aren’t the only thing you can find at UCLA. Sometimes, friendship happens when you’re at a party rubbing a random girl’s back, or maybe it happens when you share a table at Kerckhoff.

Whoever you are, I hope you know that it’s never too late to find real friendship. It’s week one of fall quarter, before our feet are held to the fire as midterms begin and our free time disappears into thin air, and anything seems possible.

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Arts & Entertainment

NxWorries fell flat at Bruin Bash, but didn’t have to

When Bruin Bash opening act NxWorries took the stage Monday in Pauley Pavilion, my thoughts were: “Who are these generic rappers?”

My fellow concertgoers near me – all of them seated – seemed to be equally puzzled. Some were swiping their phones furiously to relieve themselves of boredom, or perhaps were Googling the performers to learn something about the not-so-dynamic duo of Anderson .Paak and Knxwledge.

The thing was, NxWorries had a chance to be dynamic. Numerous factors, including the act’s pairing with Madeon, the beat-dropping French electronic dance music maestro, and their decision to perform gangsta rap, was what sunk them.

The pair might have fared better if they had actually played to their strengths. They are referred to as R&B artists – so why didn’t they perform more soulful and upbeat R&B tracks that could have swayed the audience in their favor? To be fair, the attempt to appeal to a college crowd and their pairing with an upbeat EDM artist made their jobs more difficult. In addition, Knxwledge’s starting the set by himself DJing rap music proved confusing to the audience – aren’t they a duo? Anderson .Paak then joined him in several gangsta rap covers, none of which were enough to pump up the crowd.

Only later during the performance did NxWorries attempt to bring out their strengths as alternative R&B artists. But it was too late – by the time they performed their only original track, “Suede,” it was falling on deaf ears.

What makes this all the more unfortunate is that, as solo artists, both have worked for, or with, big names like Kendrick Lamar and Dr. Dre. Their repertoires are in alternative hip-hop: relaxing, electronic-influenced and sometimes a little tongue-in-cheek. Knxwledge’s music is described as “soul-drenched instrumental hip-hop.” Anderson .Paak wore some sort of jacket to emulate rap performers, but his style is more about creating a “warm, fuzzy vibe.” Little of this was on display in their vocal-driven rap performance.

That’s how one musical amateur, and an untold number of Bruins, came to think of them as “generic rappers” – a title NxWorries did not deserve but accidentally earned Monday.

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