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It was an evening of contrasts in style and reception at the Black Cat, as Briton Tom Misch closed out his first ever North American tour with support from native New Yorker Gabriel Garzón-Montano.

The turnout was exceptional for a Sunday evening – a reminder that people in DC will show up for events if they’re excited enough. This was Tom Misch’s first show in Washington (the second if you include his performance at NPR’s Tiny Desk on Friday), and the English producer and vocalist has built up enough hype and anticipation over the last four years to sell out the Black Cat. That it feels like he’s been around forever, although he’s only 22-years-old is particularly impressive; it’s made even more so by the fact that he doesn’t even have a page on Wikipedia (but his Instagram is fire). Misch has been putting out mixtapes of easy-listening hip hop for the last four years, finally culminating in the April release of his debut album Geography – an LP that sounds like Jamie Cullum’s version of a J. Dilla record, in the best way possible, weirdly. Misch is doing a lot of things well without really trying anything new, and audiences are eating it up. But the show was surprisingly fun, with a sense of looseness and joy permeating through the audience. People sang, swayed, and danced throughout, and it’s clear that whatever Misch is doing seems to be working out pretty well for him, even if it’s a little boring on the album.

That was unfortunately not the case for opener Gabriel Garzón-Montano. It just didn’t seem to be Garzón-Montano’s night from the beginning, but not for lack of trying. The Colombian-American brings unique style and swing to rhythm and blues, experimenting with form and timbre on many of his tracks, but it wasn’t landing with the audience – the din of chatter never really faded, and his intimate, delicate songs suffered because of it. Decked out in a white toreador outfit and shirtless beneath the waistcoat, Garzón-Montano evoked Prince and Alejandro Fernández in aesthetics, as his music tried to thread the needle between straightforward soul with elements of Latin polyrhythm. Playing in his new trio configuration, the songs were dynamic and complex and interesting, but it’s hard to ford the gap with an audience who are expecting something simultaneously a little more propulsive and less challenging.

Garzón-Montano had an early moment in the spotlight in late 2014, receiving much exposure after touring with Lenny Kravitz (at the suggestion of Lenny’s daughter, Zoë) and then having his sweet lullaby “6 8” sampled by Drake, the Vampire King himself, on the closing track of If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. And like many artists who have benefited from the “Drake Effect”, this attention gained Garzón-Montano a wave of new fans, many of whom stuck with him. I saw his set opening for Glass Animals at the 9:30 Club in August of 2015 and he was clearly the best thing about that entire evening: full of charisma, charm and sex appeal, even if he expressed some bitterness about how those fans had come to know his music. Perhaps frustratingly for him, last night the loudest roars of recognition came when people finally placed the track, with more than a few people in the back saying “Jungle” in short sequence. It’s gotta be hard for the guy, and I hope he scores another hit soon to wash away the lingering memories of Champagne Papi.

Feature photo Tom Misch, courtesy of the artist

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