by Madeline White
The ears of passersby on Beverly Boulevard likely perked up with confusion when walking by the Bootleg Theater Wednesday Night, as eruptions of collective screams and roars intermittently filled the sound waves. Why was the crowd screaming? Probably because Morgan Kibby of “White Sea” just powered through a high note—and I mean, high note—with ease and grace.
“I used to be trapped behind an instrument in M83, and now I get to sing. It’s so liberating,” said Kibby.
Singer-songwriter and Los Angeles local Kibby, who formerly fronted the Romanovs and collaborated with M83, is back on the scene—but this time, in an act all her own. The “Haim”-esque synth-pop band “White Sea” performs a month-long residency at the Bootleg Theatre this October. With a solid resume behind her and tunes straight off the press, the residency will determine if record companies want to put millions of dollars behind her, says accomplished music journalist Drew Tewksbury.
Kibby performed tracks from her self-produced 2014 album “In Cold Blood,” as well her two popular singles from this year, “Never a Woman” and “Stay Young, Get Stoned,” which had the crowd dancing and wooing.
The dark-haired beauty was not alone in engaging the crowd of mostly mid-30s music industry diehards, though. Producer Jake Sinclair’s pet project “Alohaha” played before the headliner, and the reaction was positive. A room full of focused ears and eyes soaked in the melancholic sounds of Hawaiian soft rock, marked by about three 15-minute medleys, which featured a lap guitarist and pedal steel player. While Sinclair described Kibby’s music as having the ability to get “butts moving,” he said his own creations have more of a “deep sadness.”
Besides being nominated for a Grammy, LA-based Sinclair has worked with internationally acclaimed best-selling artists such as Taylor Swift, Train, and Weezer. “He is a great producer,” said Weezer guitarist Brian Bell.
Sean Cimino, guitarist of band “Foster the People,” expressed his awe after the closing of Sinclair’s set. “It was absolutely beautiful,” he said. “I’m infatuated with the lap guitar and pedal steel, so it really wooed me in.”
Kibby actually sang back-up vocals in “Alohaha,” while Sinclair played a 6-string guitar in “White Sea.” The pair is not strangers to working together, however; Kibby explained that they have the same manager and he produced her new EP.
“It’s really nice to have that exchange of musical information [with an audience],” said Sinclair, in reference to his “Alohaha” and “White Sea” sets.
But while musical information may have reached out to many in the first two sets, the third act of the night seemed to provide less of an exchange. Danish-born Soren Juul of the UK label 4AD was the last to take the stage—in a solo act—and about half the crowd had gone home. Still, his music maintained the sort of “epic synth” sound that acted as the unifying theme throughout the evening. The musician and singer played synth creations on a loop against eerie piano chords, in a dream-like tempo that only ever moved as fast as a heartbeat.
Kibby’s seemingly ever-expanding vocal range seemed to be the real motivator of the evening. “That was awesome!” screamed a fan in the crowd, after her voice seamlessly climbed a musical scale. When asked about her training, Kibby said, “I’ve never really had voice lessons.” A lucky gift from the heavens, as it turns out.