Indie pop artists “The Aces” and “morgxn” brought short but sweet performances, featuring old favorites and unreleased songs, to UC San Diego.
Last Wednesday night, The Loft transformed itself from a calm cafe into a dark room pumping with indie pop music. With a modest turn-out, the performances were intimate and allowed the singers and the audience to get up close and personal. Despite their respective titles of opening act and headliner, the performances of both morgxn and The Aces felt like they were on the same level and received equal playing time and attention.
Touting rose-tinted glasses and a lively persona, morgxn delivered a soulful performance that felt less like another forgettable opening act and more like a dazzling headliner. An alternative R&B artist hailing from Nashville, morgxn presented tracks from his upcoming first album, “Vital.” In between songs, he earnestly expressed how each and every audience member was “vital,” a motivational sentiment that was met with cheers from the crowd. He encouraged everyone to write what they felt was vital to themselves in a notebook at the back of the room, which he would collect at the end of the night.
The crowd had the chance to get a sneak-peek at the sultry, pop-rock song “translucent,” one of the album’s songs released as a single the Friday after the concert. A number of people were not familiar with morgxn, much less his new song, so the song received a generally tepid response. morgxn didn’t seem to mind –– he was happily head-banging and strutting around onstage. Eventually, his performative style energized the crowd until they were nodding their heads and stamping their feet. In his next song “me without you,” also from the album “Vital,” his keyboardist and drummer left the stage so that he could play a heartfelt keyboard solo. The slow-paced song suited his strong vocals and garnered hoots from the crowd whenever he belted out a high note.
The act finally found its groove when he transitioned into his better-known singles. During the earworm that is “xx,” morgxn split the crowd down the middle and had one side sing “don’t” and the other sing “let me down.” Leading up to his next song, “bruised,” he told the concertgoers that they were beautiful and should never change themselves for others, and halfway through the serenade he leapt offstage and sang in the audience. Finally, the much-anticipated “home” had the whole room singing and clapping along to the catchy, bass-boosted beats.
When it was The Aces’ turn to take the stage, a larger crowd had formed, and the sight of the four young women led to a frenzy of cheers. Decked in jean jackets, Doc Martins, and casual tees, the all-female band from Utah exuded a laid-back yet playful vibe, reminiscent of HAIM. With minimal introduction, they kicked off with songs from their EP, “I Don’t Like Being Honest,” including pop rock track “Touch” and the sensual “Physical.” Vocalist Cristal Ramirez weaved around the stage, coolly winking and dancing along to the band’s tunes, supported by backup vocals, guitar, bass, and drums.
Ramirez admitted that it was The Aces’ first time in San Diego, and after the crowd’s enthusiasm, she exclaimed, “Why haven’t we been here before?” The girls expressed their love for the San Diego weather, comparing it to the the East Coast climate that they claimed made them look like “vampires.”
A tremendous cheer rose from the crowd when “Volcanic Love” began to play. Phones were drawn, Snapchat was opened, and numerous voices sang along to the impassioned love lyrics. Afterwards, Ramirez explained that the band’s visit to The Loft with morgxn was a sidestop on its main tour with COIN. Like morgxn, The Aces advertised their upcoming debut album, called “When My Heart Felt Volcanic,” which will be released on April 6.
They performed “Lovin’ is Bible,” a sun-soaked single from the album that croons of a picturesque, simple romance. It fit right at home with the band’s “girl next door” aesthetic. Bathed in blue and purple lighting, the band performed other songs from the album, including “Last One“ and “Fake Nice.”
The band ended on a high note with its well-known song, “Stuck.” As if on command, the audience was jumping together, their hands reaching out to the band members onstage. Voices rose whenever the chorus hit, and with music and energy coursing through everyone’s veins, the night ended.
The setlist was unfortunately short, but offered a tantalizing taste of what the groups have to offer. Regardless, fans left the concert as if they had experienced something much larger and impactful. Both of the acts lingered around after their performances, kindly allowing people to chat, grab autographs, and snap selfies with them. Even with speakers blasting the music a little too loudly throughout the concert and the bass sometimes overpowering their vocals, both artists sounded better live, adding vocal nuances to the songs that felt more polished in their official formats. Besides the performers’ music, their enthralling performances and genuine engagement with the audience were the true highlights of the show.
One can only imagine what they could do with a bigger venue and crowd. And perhaps that hope will one day become reality. Nevertheless, as morgxn said, “UCSD really knows how to make a boy feel welcome.”
Concert Due: March 7, 2018
Location: The Loft
Photo courtesy of The Aces