The last day of the Emerge Music + Impact festival was a mixed bag—panels ran hours behind, attendance at said panels felt minimal—but by the night’s end, Emerge had managed to turn things around, ending its debut year on a high note.
I began at the Harrah’s Showroom for the “Mental Wellth” panel, where singer Grandson and Chef Sonia El-Nawal prepared a quick meal that musicians could easily make on the road. For musicians and artists, learning how to prepare easy and healthy meals on tour is a crucial yet often overlooked skill that many could have benefited from—but sadly, there were hardly any folks in the room to absorb any of the information. Mercy Music’s Brendan Scholz played to a crowd of no more than 15 people and spoke briefly about his own personal struggles as a musician, followed by a panel on women in the music industry. One of the more insightful panels of the day, Noisey West Coast Editor and former Weekly staffer Andrea Domanick led the discussion joined by singer and activist Madame Gandhi and Andreea Magdalina, founder of SheSaid.So, a collective for women in the music industry. “We have to be more accountable as an industry to provide resources,” Magdalina said, explaining that record labels and management should be invested in their clients’ mental health and well-being. “Whenever an artist signs an A&R deal, there must be some sort of clause where mental health resources or coaching are offered as part of that deal,” Magdalina advised. “You will very likely need that support as your career grows.”
The same evening over at Brooklyn Bowl looked drastically different as Twin Shadow played to a small but energized crowd, everyone hanging onto his smooth guitar solos and soul-drenched funk-pop. But it was Mike Milosh—aka Rhye—who tore the house down on Sunday evening. Using the same band he employed in his studio for his recent Blood LP, Rhye was joined by a pianist, trumpeter/cellist, violinist, guitarist, bassist and drummer, whose collective force was something no one was quite prepared for. Songs like “Waste” turned into torching-hot dance numbers with explosive instrumentals. Rhye’s band all worked in tandem, riffing and jamming and turning the ends of songs into swelling, orchestral works of jazz-funk art. And then, of course, there’s Rhye himself, whose vocal range—unmistakably rare and soft—is reserved and minimal yet somehow intensely emotional and effective. It ended an otherwise rocky day with an absolute bang—something that Emerge desperately needed. Lesson learned. If the festival returns next year, and I hope it does, a more localized event at one or two main venues—and a focus on music first—seems like the surefire way to go.