Alex Crossan took the 9:30 Club stage without much of a fuss on Friday night. Mere moments after the lights dimmed, he took his place while beaming white lights washed over the various musical equipment stockpiled around him. Aside from the myriad of musical tools, there seemed to be a minimalist approach to the stage design, as he opted for only his name – Mura Masa – to appear behind him in white Helvetica on a solid black background.
Virtually every color was represented by lights throughout his set, but only one at a time. The performance itself had very few frills – and honestly, it wasn’t a bad thing. The strategic and somewhat conservative approach to effects was my first clue that the main focus of this show from beginning to end would be the music itself.
Mura Masa did everything himself, from playing drums, guitar and keys to singing and working the soundboard. The 22-year-old, Guernsey-born artist is a mega-multitasker. And aside from being a multi-instrumentalist, he also produces his own music and writes his own songs.
It was amazing to see him constantly rotate from instrument to instrument before chiming in vocally without missing a beat. Since much of Mura Masa’s music features collaborations from artists like A$AP Rocky, Charli XCX, Cosha (who recently switched over from the moniker Bonsai), NAO and more, naturally he needed a versatile vocalist to accompany him for his DC performance. He brought out London artist Fliss as his collaborator for the night, and she took on the various features in her own style.
Whereas Mura Masa couldn’t give us much stage presence (most likely because he was playing literally all of the instruments onstage), Fliss did with ease. She imbued the crowd with energy as she danced across the stage, swinging her long braids to the beats Mura Masa meticulously constructed.
I was very impressed by how similar to Charli XCX she sounded when she sang “1 Night,” and she provided a terrific cover of Cosha’s vocals on “What If I Go?” and “Nuggets,” as well as NAO’s on “Firefly” and her newest Mura Masa collab, “Complicated.”
Though Mura Masa’s music lends itself really well to some vocal instrumentation, to me it still seems to be less about what’s being said and more about the overall feeling it gives you. It was a wholly positive experience, though I admittedly wasn’t incredibly familiar with his music beyond the uber popular tracks.
The crowd was comprised of people I’d imagine you’d see at a college frat party, but the overall mood was far less raucous. I’d chalk that up to the music and the way it was presented, because it never really came to a boiling point.
During his last song, Mura Masa expressed his gratitude to the audience for coming out, but much of what he said I couldn’t make out because of his thick British accent. After he left the stage, those of us watching in the audience lingered to see if he might come back out for one more song. But the lights went up and we collectively realized he was gone for the night.