Photos: Maggie Einstein
Music fans are left in the darkness of Downtown Los Angeles’ Teragram Ballroom. Conversation spread in the room, to be gradually softened by a track similar to echoes of wind, seamlessly transitioning into aching interims of vocals. BAYNK walked out excitedly, in juxtaposition with the moodier track playing, wearing his classic all-white look, in the midst of bright, white lights. The crowd inevitably broke out into impassioned, affirming call outs for the animated New Zealander as he enters.
The stage design was a minimalistic yet intriguing pair of two squares – the larger, a dynamic and vitalizing border closer to the edge, remaining off for the time being, while the square further from the audience, finished with individual light bulbs, blinks in green.
BAYNK opened with an extended instrumental of “Poolside,” heightening the room’s energy with his eccentric dancing before shouting, “Los Angeles how are we doing tonight?!” The larger of the two squares periodically blinked in white, and “Poolside” falls into SZA’s “Garden (Say It Like Dat).” As the set slows, nothing can take away from how well BAYNK knew how to utilize his space, whether DJ’ing, singing, dancing, or playing the sax – he didn’t miss an opportunity to fully engage every pocket of the audience.
“Settle,” BAYNK’s late 2018 collaboration with London artist, Sinéad Harnett, begins. The room picked up on the pre-chorus, “I saw the best part of me inside of you / Calling you my lover without a title / So what you wanna do?” With “Settle”’s streams upwards of four-million on Spotify alone, the crowd didn’t miss a beat.
The set list presents an interesting takeaway of his sound, in that he blends a varied collection of songs that provide both lyrics of substance and a beat lively enough to keep you dancing and happy. He stays true to tropical electronic, while venturing into his own mix of Kendrick’s “Backseat Freestyle” and Mura Masa’s “Lotus Eater,” a cover of Outkast’s “Ms. Jackson,” a chopped and screwed version of BROCKHAMPTON’s “Stains,” Drake’s “Hotline Bling,” and Chance The Rapper’s “All Night.” He made sure to throw in popular songs that never lost their appeal as a result of consistent radio play – fans outside of hip-hop sang the lyrics back without the tired taste of an overplayed song.
Each sub-element of his performance demanded the crowd’s attention, to the extent that the vast majority of phones were nowhere to be found. The ever-changing nature of the production design and show itself steered fans away from their iPhone cameras, solely because the complexity of the performance is too appealing to watch through a screen.
Throughout the show, BAYNK turned to the sax a few different times, which is such a random yet flawless detail of the performance, especially when unexpected.
“Off Limits,” featuring Australian electronica trioG LADES, faded in as the stage lights illuminated in deep blue, with two blasts of white light and smoke coming from either side of BAYNK.
He begins to play the sax, diversifying the beloved track with a dimension of blues, which is fleeting, but arguably one of the most powerful moments of his performance in the show. The crowd reciprocates his inexhaustible energy throughout, and when he slows down, whether to sing or play, fans look on wide-eyed and louder than before.
Before turning to “What You Need,” featuring New Zealnd singer NÏKA, BAYNK sampled the chorus of Cashmere Cat’s “9″ featuring MØ and SOPHIE. “I know, I know, you’ll never be mine / I like the way your body moves / I like the way you spread confusion” smoothly into his own, “Boy, you had it from the start / Played the game, you played your part.” “What You Need” played out, he threw his hands up, and everyone applauded.
On stage, BAYNK moves with such a presence and enthusiasm that is impossible to ignore or entertain the idea of looking at your phone. Over his hour-long set, he proved himself as an inventive and engaging act ready to continue pushing the confines of his own artistry.