I haven’t spent much time at the Natural History Museum in recent time. As a child, it was mostly field trips mandated by the school to see all the artifacts of old dinosaurs and animals of our planet’s past. This night was going to be a much more unique experience.
Since the release of Gabriel Garzón-Montano’s Jardín in January, I’ve had it on full repeat. I went out of my way to purchase it on wax. It’s one of the most refreshing albums I’ve heard in a long time. Layered with textures of elements of Jazz, R&B, Funk, & Hip-Hop; it surely has been on the ears and tongues of those who are true music listeners. On this night, however, I wasn’t fully prepared for an incredible performance of this album and more.
The crowd was in anticipation, as was I, as Gabriel took to the stage with his drummer. He kicked off the set with “Sour Mango”, a very drum heavy, head-bobbing track speaking of unrequited love off Jardín. I was prepared to sing along as he sang,
“Though my skin burned my heart was stone cold you see / Hoping you were sitting thinking of me”
We were all in unison and participating with Gabriel. He continued on with “Fruit Flies”. A song speaking to the struggle of being an immigrant and displacement. A tad bit of a slower track, the lyrics resonate all too well within the social climate of what’s been going on around the world and in this country.
Continuing on with the set was my favorite track “Long Ears”. The keys and bass pedal truly stand out alongside the off-time drum signature. Although the words themselves are more of a poem than lyrics, they seem to bounce so well and become a cohesive track. I felt like I had time traveled and had seen a young Tom Scott performing from his Honeysuckle Breeze album. At this point my expectations were exceeded, if not more.
Gabriel stood away from the piano and got up to the microphone in front. Things took a funky turn as they started on “The Game”, a song not only with a catchy melody, but with words speaking on the hustle of the every-man losing sight of what’s most important. To be a few songs deep into his set and yet, churning out energy was really amazing.
To give you a literal understanding of the song “Crawl” if you have not heard it wouldn’t do it justice. This was the moment of the night when I thought to myself, “This guy is a fucking artist.”. I had seen the spirit of Prince join him on stage. The exuberance and vibe felt through track resonated with me. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was singing to the chorus.
“I act a damn fool, Baby, when you crawl around on me.”
You couldn’t find a single person in the crowd not dancing or at least bobbing their head. Gabriel kept the crowd singing as he went straight to acapella and claps as he extended the outro of “Crawl”. He thanked the crowd and continued on to one my favorite tracks and sample.
“Rock me real slowly / Put a bib on me / I’m just like a baby drooling over you / The things you do”
It’s no surprise why Drake took “Six Eight” from Gabriel’s previous work Bishouné and flipped it to make “Jungle” for If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late. A minimal track with just a bass pedal, keys, and a simple drum tempo; it holds it’s strength even more so when performed live. The crowd was silent, but you could see everyone just mouthing along to the words. It became a still moment for all of us.
The night was coming to a close. Gabriel had a few tracks left closing out the set with “Bomba Fabrika”, “Cantiga”, and “My Balloon” the last few tracks on Jardín with which are also alongside the most powerful. I want to reiterate that throughout this whole set the man did not let up. It was fully focused and there for the crowd as they too had reciprocated the same feelings of energy. I cannot wait to attend another one of his shows here in L.A.
We made our way to the exit and said our goodbyes. As soon as I started my car, I played “Six Eight” one more time for the ride home. The lights around the city flickered as I still was buzzing from a high. Anyone who didn’t make it to the show missed out on a piece of history. To see someone perform so consistently with passion in a set is a feat in itself. Gabriel embodied music that night and will continue to do so. I was just lucky enough to tell you about it.