Shortly before Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump faced off in St. Louis for their second presidential debate, Fantastic Negrito hit the stage of New York’s Mercury Lounge, and both directly and indirectly, he addressed a few of his own concerns about what’s troubling America.
The stylish singer-songwriter, also known as Xavier Dphrepaulezz, used melody, brevity, subtlety and intimacy in sharing those issues, while also focusing on his excellent first FN album, The Last Days of Oakland. The stomping “Working Poor,” with its refrain “Keep on knockin’ but I can’t get in,” needed no explanation or context. As for “In the Pines (Oakland),” an old blues song made famous by Lead Belly updated with new lyrics about a woman whose son is killed by the police, Dphrepaulezz preceded it by mentioning he’d lost a teenage brother to gun violence, and that a teen cousin also suffered the same fate.
With or without his guitar, Dphrepaulezz was full of expression and in constant motion throughout his headlining set — leaning, clapping, squatting, pointing, even flapping his arms in a modified funky-chicken-style dance. At times he came close to either bumping into his bandmates, knocking over his bottled water or falling off the stage, but he managed to avoid such unfortunate incidents. Dphrepaulezz will have much more stage space to work with at his next New York show, opening for Temple of the Dog on Nov. 7 at Madison Square Garden.
Meanwhile, Fantastic Negrito’s headlining tour continues through Oct. 29, with New Orleans, Dallas, Denver, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas among the scheduled stops.
— Review and photos by Chris M. Junior