We ventured out on a sweltering July evening to support The Skins, but Afropunk at Lincoln Center Out of Doors this past Friday ended up surprising the hell out of us.

Full disclosure: We weren’t too familiar with Lion Babe or Vintage Trouble, and after listening to a few tracks of each, we did not have the highest hopes or expectations of them. Thinking about this now makes me almost angry at myself for the pre-opinions we drew of the other bands. But I digress…

First up was Lion Babe. The emerging duo that combines electronic-styled production with vocals and an atmosphere of neo-soul. Lion Babe’s signature is singer Jillian Harvey’s amber mane that sprouts from all angles of her head. Hence, the group’s name. To be honest, I was a bit turned off when first hearing tracks like “Jump Hi” and “Treat Me Like Fire” on Spotify months due to the over produced sound. But, a live band makes all the difference. As Lion Babe zipped through their 5 song set, Jillian Harvey’s organic dance moves and sultry vocals cast a spell upon me and I could stop moving my damn hips.

Lion BabeLion Babe Dance

I have spent the past few months, listening to demos of The Skins, and I was beyond ready to see/hear them in the flesh. Describing the energy that they give off is not easy. Their sound is diverse and stretches across several planes but hovers under this broad umbrella of style and sound and still slaps you right in face. The Brooklyn-based genre-bending rock group owned Lincoln Center as they gave the audience a mere sample of who The Skins really are. Dueling guitarists Daisy Spencer and Russell Chell teased us with shredding guitar riffs, while Reef, the youngest of the three Mckeithan siblings, thumped everyone with on point percussion. A prime example of who The Skins really were was displayed when halfway through a song bassist Kaya Mckeithan switched with her sister, singer Bayli Mckeithan, and took center stage to lay down a few verses and surprised everyone with a little rap. Everyone at Lincoln Center that night got a real treat seeing a band like this for free. All you need to know about the Skins is to keep an eye out because they are ready to explode on the scene and into your ears.

The SKins1

When the Skin’s left the stage, we started to gather ourselves and make our way out until a man who had to be at least 70 years old stopped us and said. “Where are you guys going?” We told him we were just going to make our way out and grab a drink or something. “You’re not staying for Vintage Trouble?” he asked. We said we might hang around but really did plan to. His feelings of shock and disagreement with our decision were clearly displayed upon his face. “Listen,” pc he said placing a hand of my shoulder, “I’ve seen them all, Jimi, Zeppelin, The Stones, Pink Floyd, you name it, and this is my favorite fucking band.”

So naturally we stayed.

Listening to that man was one of this best decisions I’ve made in a long time. For the entirety of the Vintage Trouble set I was complete awe for several different reasons. Every damn member was in the pocket and played the hell out of their instruments. The organic charisma and raw talent of singer, Ty Taylor was comfortably reminiscent of James Brown from his shredding vocals to his suggestive dance moves but to compare him to such seems unfair. As the band played through the majority of their first album, “The Bomb Shelter Sessions”, Ty Taylor was speaking to the audience, almost preaching on why the band was there, and truly expressing how important the existence of a community like Afropunk is. In between songs, he said one thing that will never leave my mind:

“We are in our heads too much, but not in our bodies enough.”


Probably the best part of this entire night was that during the Vintage Trouble set was seeing that man look at me with the strongest look of satisfaction I have ever seen. He didn’t say it, but his eyes said it for him. “I told you so.”

Photos: Damian Charles
Words: Adam Dishian