Some of the most slept on artists are the ones right in front of us.
Openers for headlining artists are usually skipped, ignored, or booed offstage in anticipation for the main performer. Little do people know that those artists aren’t just thrown on stage to fill time, but are actually picked with the support of either the artist they bought the ticket for, or other influential people in the industry. If you were able to catch Leon Bridges’ performance at the Paramount Theatre in Denver recently, I hope you got to catch his opening R&B act, Solo Woods.
Hailing from Chicago and currently based in Brooklyn, Solo Woods is a powerhouse artist. His moving voice links his interchanging styles, ranging from soulful R&B to funky synths reminiscent of 80’s Prince. He’s grabbed the attention of Pigeons and Planes and AfroPunk. With regard to his song “Long Ways”, P&P writer, Katie Kelly said it “makes me feel something I didn’t think was humanly possible”. This just about sums up my first interaction with Woods too.
Though I was unable to snag a ticket in time for Leon Bridges’ sold out Paramount Theatre performance, I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time for the intimate performance by both Woods and Bridges at Goosetown Tavern’s open mic in Denver. Half of the tavern was emptied out to make room for a small stage, and there were roughly 30 people in the room as Woods stepped up to the mic, guitar in hand. His drummer, Themba, set up behind him.
As Woods started singing, the chatty crowd quieted down and gathered closer to check him out. His acoustic set was minimalistic and focused attention on his voice and pure artistry. Curious people from the other room filed in at the call of his voice. Leon watched intently, nodding in approval and smiling in awe of his skill. The breadth of Woods’ ethereal voice swelled the energy in the room, and stopped me dead in my tracks. You know that feeling when you hear a new song for the first time and you feel high from the refreshing new sound? That’s how I felt with every song that Solo Woods performed. I could tell I wasn’t alone, as the crowd sang along to his live performance of “Long Ways”, encouraging him to continue the song and add a few more guitar riffs.
On their last tour, Leon Bridges brought along Kali Uchis to open, who has since skyrocketed and collaborated with Vince Staples, Major Lazer, Goldlink, and Tyler, the Creator. Singer songwriter Brittni Jessi confidently confirmed that the same fate awaits Woods when I spoke to her at this show. Solo Woods’ music is available on SoundCloud, Spotify, and Apple Music. Make sure to go give it a listen!
All photos per the author.