written by Maria Arroyo
Last Wednesday night, Radical Face (aka Ben Cooper) took the stage at World Cafe Live. Opening for them was a Scottish singer-songwriter, Axel Flóvent. Overall, the downstairs venue at World Cafe Live is always a great one because the set up is more than ideal. It allows those who want to be front and center with the artists to do so, while still allowing others a bit more space between them and can enjoy the music from the bar. As the night went on, more and more people flooded the ground floor to get as close as possible to the music.
Axel Flóvent really wowed the audience with his storytelling and incredibly smooth vocals and guitar playing. His music has a way with the audience because of how his stories were able to connect with us. He gave us insight into certain songs that allowed us to create that personal connection with him.
Flóvent shares his witty comments pertaining to everything going on with COVID-19 and says that his tour is getting cut short, but that he is still happy and fortunate to be able to play for us tonight. One song that stuck in my head was a song about himself at the age of 17 when he was filled with tons of anxiety.
The song, “Sea Creatures,” is about over-thinking and over-analyzing every situation as most 17-year-olds do, which made it a relatable one for most in the audience. He was exceptionally humble about his success, even when everyone was screaming for him to keep playing!
Right then and there, I followed his music page because he was someone I wanted to remember! His songs connected to me personally, which made this experience so much more than I could have asked for.
Naturally, as the night went on, more people moved to the front of the stage for the main act. Radical Face can best be described as a storytelling folk and singer/songwriter sound with an incredible talent for keepinghis audience entertained.
Now it didn’t hit me just how lucky I was to be standing in this space listening to live music with all of the news surrounding the Coronavirus. One by one, I hear that my friends’ shows and other bands’ shows are getting canceled, rescheduled, and the same can be said for the big-name acts. They are no stranger to the devastating news of having to cut their tour short but made the best of a bad situation. Anytime the dreaded COVID-19 topic came up, they were always able to lighten the mood and just appreciate that they could be playing a show at this very moment.
His humor and lightheartedness was a complete contrast to the music that I heard. His music tackles some serious issues, with a very surreal storyline to expose these situations. There were stories about a set of twins in which one of them has to watch the other die, to a story about a little girl who can bring people back from the dead, and even a child who can see his dead relatives in his house.
I was completely taken aback by it because it’s not every day that you hear songs with these stories in mind. The one that got to me the most was the story of the two twins. The line in this particular song sent shivers throughout my entire body and stopped me in my steps. He says, “I’ll wear this face for the both of us…” and everything about the story became so real and raw, but its those intense emotions that draw me to music and artists like him. While I imagine he has not personally gone through these ordeals, it takes a very empathetic person to put themselves in these foreign shoes to tell these stories and get people like me to feel the way I did.
Something very subtle that I noticed is that even though he is singing these very sad and emotional songs, he is smiling through the lyrics. Though I found it a bit odd at first, my confused face changed to that of a smile. It was the realization of just how happy being on that stage sharing his music makes him. He undeniably showed his happiness and excitement for what he does, and it became the biggest lesson I took from that night. Even when situations aren’t ideal, make the best of a not so great situation and smile through it.
Radical Face shows an incredible skill for storytelling and songwriting that shined throughout the entire night, and the way that all of the musicians were able to bring different elements to the stage to help bring the stories to life was another great thing to see. The bass/cello player and drummer never seemed to be out of sync, and the non-verbal communication was spot on. The crowd was singing along to every song, and even throwing out suggestions to override the setlist. They even topped off the night with an encore!
This was an incredible night for music, and it really felt like a group of music lovers coming together and just enjoying what we had right in front of us. I hope they come back to Philly again because they are going to be playing bigger and better stages and I’ll be there to soak up every minute of it all over again.