I arrived at Manifesto early enough to catch Daniel Caesar's 6:45 set and, despite the rain and all around depressing weather, there was already a crowd forming. As one of the MC’s put it later on in the night, it was as if the second Daniel Caesar started singing the heavens opened up, the rain went away, and the Sun started to shine. It’s ridiculous, I know that, but I can’t think of a more accurate explanation. Coincidence aside, hearing Caesar’s voice truly makes you believe the heavens could open up for it. As perfect as it sounds on his album “Pilgrim’s Paradise,” it does not prepare you for hearing him live. I was glad to have a spot up close as Echo Beach doesn't quite provide the intimacy needed for Caesar’s smooth voice and quiet R&B vibes. The only thing that could have made his set more perfect was if River Tiber was there to sing “West” with Caesar, although I was glad to hear him play it anyway. He was, however, visited by Sean Leon who did a good job of hyping up a very mellow crowd of people, lost in Caesar’s voice and chill presence. It may not be the most expected or common opinion after this show, but Daniel Caesar was the highlight of my night.
After a long wait, and way too much stalling by the MCs, KAYTRANADA finally came on stage at around 8:10. He jumped right into the music, and got the crowd going quickly. At this point, the crowd had grown exponentially; all of those people that so unfortunately missed Daniel Caesar (I’m sure they don’t care, but I do) were there in full force for KAYTRANADA and ready to dance. In his entire set, I think he maybe said 10 words, mostly to give shout outs to people he’d worked with, including another mention of River Tiber. Somehow this added to his charm – the DJ who doesn’t have much to say. The Montreal native certainly has moves though, dancing behind his laptop along with crowd, making everyone dance harder. He played his remix of Rihanna’s “Kiss it Better” and some Chance the Rapper which was a nice addition to his already stacked set. Beyond the music, the art on the background projector was incredibly captivating, which was a surprising highlight for me. Yes, I loved the music, that’s what I went to the show for, but I like it when a show is visually appealing, especially during a DJ set when there isn’t always a lot to look at. What really got the crowd going was when KAYTRANADA brought out Anderson .Paak to perform “Glowed Up” with him. By then the excitement couldn’t be stopped. That was a great way to keep the momentum going, especially in the break before Anderson .Paak’s own set.
Feeling a little overwhelmed by the crowd, I hung closer to the back for Anderson .Paak’s set. This actually worked out well, because I got to see the crowd, and watch some pretty impressive dancers, who were in need of space to move. Like KAYTRANADA’s set before him, Anderson .Paak had some really interesting things going on behind him on the projector. There was definitely no issue finding something to look at though, as .Paak flew across the stage jumping and dancing. His energy was infectious, pulsing through the audience; the whole beach felt like it was throbbing with excitement. He’s a surprisingly impressive dancer and an even more impressive drummer, playing his impressive beats with intensity. Anderson .Paak’s ability to keep the crowd enthralled for every second of his set added such a fun and insane energy to the evening. I expected him to have good voice, but it was even better than I expected. I think I like his voice better live. I thought it sounded almost sweeter, like it had a different feel to it, a feel that perhaps his studio recordings haven’t been able to capture. Whatever it was, it worked for me, and so did his insistence on playing right until the echo beach curfew at 11.
Each set had it’s own vibe, and brought something new to Manifesto. The music was amazing, the performances were exciting and I was so happy it lived up to my very high expectations. All of these incredible musicians are worth a listen, and definitely worth seeing live if you get the chance.