Frank Ocean performed at NYC's Angel Orensanz synagogue on Manhattan's Lower East Side Monday night with Bon Iver as part of the Fader and vitaminwater's Uncapped series. (Photo: Andy Gensler)
If the Fader and vitaminwater wanted to make a splash in the New York music community, they could hardly have chosen two better artists to do so than Frank Ocean and Bon Iver. In addition to their feted recent albums and tours, Ocean stirred NYC on successive weekends with stellar appearances on "Saturday Night Live" and last weekend's ATP's I'll Be Your Mirror festival (and before that a much-ballyhooed performance on the MTV VMAs); while Bon Iver was fresh from a four-night headlining stint at Radio City Music Hall and is wrapping his long tour in support of his self-titled second LP.
And while word of this show - which had been in the works for 11 months - was circulating among various insiders and hipsters, most people were unaware of the event until the last few days when they either saw word of it on Brooklyn Vegan (Bon Iver), a tweet from Odd Future's Tyler The Creator (Frank Ocean) or received an invite on Monday (Sept. 24) the morning of the show.
Frank Ocean? New York? Today? Free As Fuck? Okay. bit.ly/S5z2iE
- Tyler, The Creator (@fucktyler) September 24, 2012
The event marked the conclusion to the second year of Fader and vitaminwater's Uncapped series, having first teamed up in 2011 for a 28-concert program and a series of mini-documentaries, co-produced with Vice. Where last year's Uncapped was focused on producing shows across the country with a local community focus, this year was about creating concert experiences with emerging and post-emerging artists who might not otherwise share a bill - Matt & Kim with Nas in Detroit, for example, or 2 Chainz and Passion Pit in Seattle. It's even inspired the occasional collaboration, with Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino singing the hook on Kendrick Lamar's "No Make-Up" at Uncapped's Portland stop in July.
From left: Rob Stone, co-founder The Fader, Inc.; Andy Cohn, President and Publisher, The Fader, Inc.; Anthony Holland, COO, The Fader, Inc. COO (Photo: Andy Gensler)
Although Frank Ocean and Bon Iver didn't duet at Monday's show ("I tried," Fader president/publisher Andy Cohn says after noting how both performers are "artists' artists"), they were nevertheless his first picks for the entire program ever since vitaminwater greenlit Year 2 last October. And Fader and vitaminwater, which is owned by Coca-Cola, are "already having conversations on what we can do next year to elevate even further," he adds. "The sky's the limit. You have two partners who want to try to innovate, take some risks and roll some dice. That's how good things end up happening."
The gorgeous Angel Orensanz Center.
With a backing band clad in dark suits a la "Reservoir Dogs," Ocean opened with a breezy version of "Lovecrimes" from his 2011 Nostalgia/Ultra mixtape before insouciantly sailing through R&B-inflected cuts from this year's roundly-lauded full-length Channel Orange. Though banter between songs like "Thinkin' 'Bout You," "Pyramid, "Bad Religion," Sierra Leone" and "Crack Rock" was scant, the short, tight set showcased Ocean's smooth croon and the album's strong songwriting.
While Bon Iver's (aka Justin Vernon) set was only ten-minutes longer if felt doubly as intense with a nine-piece band (which included saxophone virtuoso Colin Stetson). The group added gusto to Vernon's rather plaintive songs like "Perth," "Minnesota, WI," Holocene, "Calgary" and "Michicant" augmenting some songs with powerful swirling psychedelic crescendos. For his final encore the band played "The Wolves" which had the audience singing the refrain "What might have been lost" a capella and in unison long after the band left the stage, the lights had been switched on, and the night's hostess Miss Info asked in vain for everyone to leave.
Seen in the VIP balcony at NYC's gorgeous Angel Orensanz Center (a circa-1850 Lower East Side synagogue which on this night fell most-appropriately smack in the middle of the Jewish High Holidays) were a battery of music business heavyweights, including: Eminem manager/Shady Records chief Paul Rosenberg; Windish Agency principle Tom Windish; Glass Note Records founder Daniel Glass inexplicably wearing orange hued face paint (perhaps channeling Kesha?); and NPR Music's Amy Schriefer, Saidah Blount and Bob Boilen.
NPR Music's inimitable Saidah Blount (left) and Amy Schriefer who Billboard.biz recently profiled. (Photo: Andy Gensler)
Here too was Jimmy Fallon booker (and former Billboard music editor) Jonathan Cohen (who, the night before, was seen rocking out to the Hot Snakes' incendiary ATP NYC set clad in suit and tie following a Fallon Emmys party); Cantora Records' Will Griggs (who raved about rapper Le1f, who will be headlining the afterparty after the label's CMJ showcase next month - a slot occupied last year by none other than a then-unknown Azealia Banks); and the Ace Hotel's Jou-Yie Chou and Greg Bresnitz, who explained the NYC hotel's Five at Five initiative with the Bowery Presents and Martin Guitars and which earlier that day saw the band Efterklang performing in the lobby). Also spotted was Nate Auerbach who runs Music Strategy and Outreach for Tumblr and spoke of the success his blog site had with Frank Ocean's release earlier in the summer.
A small galaxy of music writers and editors were also in attendance, among them: the New York Times' Jon Caramanica, RapRadar's Elliott Wilson and Danyel Smith; Maura Johnston; Rolling Stone's Christian Hoard; former Fader editor Sam Hockley-Smith; Pitchfork's Ryan Schreiber; and writer Zach Baron.
And while he wasn't in the house (at least not that we saw), a major topic of conversation was the abrupt departure of Lyor Cohen from the helm of Warner Music Group, news of which broke just a couple of hours before the show started. We didn't hear any insight that wasn't already in Ed Christman's article, and the most common reaction was along the lines of "Can you believe that?!"
Channeling Kesha? Daniel Glass of Glass Note with kind of awesome orange and black facepaint. (Photo: Andy Gensler)
A battery of peacock-proud Fader folks could be seen justifiably preening about, including Fader, Inc. co-founders Jon Cohen (who marveled at the fact they were able to keep news of the show quiet) and Rob Stone; COO Anthony Holland; president and publisher Andy Cohn; EVP of Digital Field Marketing John Staub and publicists Sonia Aneja, Rebecca Silverstein, and Ashley Purdum.
Up next for Fader: the company's first event at South by Southwest Eco next week in Austin, followed by the first four-day Fader Fort at CMJ, which moves to Converse's Rubber Tracks Studio in Williamsburg as part of Converse's three-year sponsorship deal with the Fort at both CMJ and South by Southwest. "The game has changed," Cohn says. "I went from selling ad pages to producing integrated programs. It's been a very interesting ride to say the least."
Freelance photographer Laura June Kirsch (left) on assignment for the Village Voice with Nate Auerbach who does Music Strategy and Outreach for Tmblr and recently consulted with Cornerstone on Matt & Kim's Tmblr site. (Photo: Andy Gensler)
Ace Hotel's Greg Breznitz (left) with Jou-Yie Chou, the property's cultural engineer, discussed their new Five at Five music initiative (Photo: Andy Gensler)
Tom Windish (right) who recently became bi-coastal, mentioned the upcoming the xx tour his Windish Agency is promoting is doing well. With Billboard's Andy Gensler (Photo: Dan Rys)
Billboard.biz's editor Jem Aswad (left) trading abuse with Fader/Cornerstone's John Staub. (Photo: Andy Gensler)
No Smoke Monster? Actor Terry O'Quinn best known as playing John Locke on "Lost" in the synagogue's VIP balcony. (Photo: Andy Gensler)
Reporting by Jem Aswad, Andy Gensler, and Dan Rys