Empress Of Engages Crowd Despite Weak Vocals


Effie Kline-Salamon

Lorely Rodriguez, a.k.a. Empress Of, performs at the Cat in the Cream last Sunday. She encouraged her audience to dance before launching into her program, during which she electronically altered the timbre of her voice to suit her selections.

Sam Winward

Singer-songwriter and producer Lorely Rodriguez entranced concertgoers last Sunday at the Cat in the Cream. Onstage she calls herself Empress Of, and though she routinely performs with her band, Rodriguez is the singular mind behind the music. Her debut EP Systems, released in April of 2013, drew artistic acclaim with its hazy electronic sound. Now with last year’s release, “Realize You,” her sound has evolved into more conventional pop.

About 30 minutes past the scheduled show time, only a few empty seats remained. When the event promoter took the stage, the audience immediately abandoned their seats for the dance floor, as the experience would surely have been awkward for everyone involved. Rodriguez then took her place onstage and wasted no time beginning the first song.

The trio produced a cohesive sound; however, apparently not all of the music was played live. Her voice was lyrical but not overpowering, especially through the microphone’s hazy filtration. Her vocal timbre often struggled to pierce through the band’s mesh of sound.

The drummer alternated between electronic and acoustic sounds, providing diverse percussive elements in each of Rodriguez’s tunes. His drumming was precise, almost machine-like; listeners might have had difficulty believing a drummer was present without visual proof. Despite his clear talent, the percussive undertones of his sound remained reserved and predictable.

Nevertheless, Empress Of managed to engage the audience. Many students began doing an interpretive dance, the bass drum’s consistent thumping providing a steady heartbeat to their movement. Rodriguez had moves of her own, occasionally getting lost in the modulating synths and throwing her hair from side to side.

Between songs, the supportive crowd shouted words of encouragement and immediately called for an encore after she finished her last song. Upon returning to the stage, she said playfully, “We never do encores. We’ve just been on tour opening for other bands.” Her admittedly small-time status, backed by a quality performance, made her worth rooting for — or maybe it was just her Brooklyn background with which so many Obies could identify. Although the show fit perfectly within the venue, it is hard to imagine Empress Of headlining bigger venues. While Rodriguez’s production and songwriting are topnotch, the recruitment of a “next-level” vocalist may be necessary to push the group over the edge.