DRAMA at The Independent

DRAMA at The Independent, San Francisco | Tshego Letsoalo

It’s the day after DRAMA’s show at The Independent in San Francisco and I can’t stop listening to “Billy,” a track from their first LP Gallows. I’m trying to relive a moment from last night towards the end of the show when the singer Via Rosa enlisted the crowd to do backing vocals for the song after roaring “I hope your new love is the one,” and before telling us she wrote it after going to a guy she thought was her boyfriend’s house and finding out that he had a (different) girlfriend. The song kicks off and everyone is singing the words and doing their part and the only word I keep thinking about to describe this moment and this entire freaking show is pure. There are only hands in the air – not even a phone to try and capture this perfectly capturable moment – and the weight of shared joy.  

DRAMA is vocalist Via Rosa and producer Na’el Shehade, who’s responsible for the groovy bass and beats that Rosa sings over in a strong and sweet voice where all the emotion lives. Live, the bedroom moodiness channeled through speakers becomes pure club music, highlighting the duo’s roots in Chicago, the home of house music. The mixes and remixes last night were insane, weaving their dream-pop-sad-house into moment after moment of dancefloor perfection.

The show made me think about how much I legitimately love electronic dance music as a reason to love music overall. Because dance music is also this magical thing that is completely and inexplicably human. We’re moved to move. We physically react to sound repeated in a rhythm and have done since the beginning of existence. And whether around a fire or a dodgy warehouse, these rhythm rituals have made us feel connected to each other and to something beyond.  

Is there any space purer than a dancefloor, where people are held together by a single beat while existing in their own private ecstasy (sometimes while on ecstasy)? One of my favorite moments ever was in a place called Slipstream during this part in a jungle remix of Fugees “Ready or Not” where the song stops and a voice says, “When I hit the trigger finger all you fuckers hit the deck!” The beat drops and everyone in that tiny room immediately collapsed into this frenzy of limb-throwing and body-rocking.

DRAMA jolted me back to that same energy, where things feel primal and beautiful and joyous like during that moment when we were tethered to “Billy,” singing and dancing and carefree in this place jam-packed with people on a Wednesday night in Coronavirus 2020.

Maxi Jazz of Faithless repeats the phrase “This is my church, this is where I heal my hurt,” in the song “God is a DJ” (which she is), and I can’t think of anything more apt. Last night was healing and cathartic in the way that only a good session on the dancefloor can provide. I left sweaty and released. We put our hands up and yelled church! I replayed the hymns all day.

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