Local musician Elsten Torres, a name well known within the Latin music circles, performed Friday night at Avenue D to a faithful and very appreciative crowd of fans as well as first timers. Avenue D was the perfect venue for the Grammy nominated singer/songwriter, with it’s timeless ambience that melds the past with the present. Appropriate as Elsten crosses back and forth effortlessly, blending old-style British pop hooks and Cuban-style troubadour vocals with modern day Americana soulful melodies. Elsten’s heart felt narrative lyrics and country-edged acoustic guitar filled the large stage, large enough to accommodate a Big Band while feeling perfectly intimate. Perhaps it was the combination of Avenue D’s stage lighting, quality sound and back wall lined with a large assortment of string instruments and Elsten’s emotional tone laced with romance and heartache that kept it intimate. Elsten performed alongside his talented musicians on bass, percussion and electric guitar (remarkably oftentimes sounding like a pedal steel without using a slide or actually having a pedal steel on stage).
Elsten played many songs from his new album, “Waiting For Clouds” (available in link to his site) including his first release, Closer Tonight, a tender, intimate love song worthy of the Top 40 charts, maybe already on it’s way considering his track record, including Todo El Ano, which hit #1 on the Billboard Latin Charts and stayed there for 5 weeks. You will quickly realize that this new album of ten songs is worth a listen and definitely an add to your musical rotation. During his prolific songwriting career he has written for a plethora of artists from Julio Iglesias, Jr. to Alejandra Guzman to Ricky Martin and his skillful artistry of writing and producing addictive tunes is apparent.
Switching gears from Avenue D to Bardot for the Hank and Cupcakes’ performance was equivalent to a journey from one end of a sentimentally sweet rainbow to the other end of a psychedelic curve. Bardot’s “stage” is a wool rug in front of the bar, with patrons crammed between the bar and the band, creating an intimate face to face (as in inches) with the artists. The duo was not intimidated by the close proximity of the revelers, in fact, it only magnified the immense intensity they radiated, quickly infecting the packed house. The tiny Cupcakes removed her platform shoes before taking her standing position behind her drum kit, perhaps for the leverage to slam all of her might into her beat, or just to allow her to go from dancing to standing on her bass drum to joining Hank on the other side of the stage, whatever the reason, within seconds she became a giant. Her clear, concise, quirky, vocals fused with bass player, and mix-monster, Hank, produced more sound than looked possible. Their sound is a high energy eletro-pop-dance with fun, feisty hooks the yanked on the heels even the most bourgeois party goer.
Brooklyn-based musicians and real life lovers (quite obvious in their performance)are originally from Tel Aviv. Having just released their new album, “Naked” in July (available in link on iTunes) they are certainly destined to be the hot new pop duo even though they have been touring since 2008. With the amount of energy they produce for each show, it’s hard to imagine that their current tour puts them in a different city every night for a more than two months. Nevertheless, their show is high energy and contagious. With just about only half way through their tour, there is still time to catch the Hank and Cupcakes’ Show of extraordinary talent and intrigue.
Photos of Hank and Cupcakes by Nicole Abbett