Written By Ashley Friedman
Teens bop around waiting for the show to start. “Did you see Jake Miller’s latest tweet, omg,” says the twelve-year-old girl swooning next to me. Her friend chimes back, “Yes! But, can you believe that we are going to see Why Don’t We in less than an hour?” Both girls jump up and down in pure joy, they have been waiting to see their favorite artists for weeks and the time is finally here!
Kiss 98.5 always has a way of bringing artists to Buffalo that are just breaking through the charts. As a journalist dedicated to telling the stories of up and comers, this concert is always a good start to see what kind of talent is out there. It also gives me a chance to watch the musicians’ stories unfold as they become frequent visitors to Buffalo. Example, Why Don’t We or Jake Miller.
It hadn’t rained — yet, but the crowd was ready with their ninety-nine cent plastic ponchos. First up on stage was Wellington, New Zealand’s Drax Project. The group has opened up for artists like Camila Cabello, Lorde and Ed Sheeran just to name a few. The four-piece Hip-Hop originally started as a two piece and added in members over time, reminding me of the UK band Easy Life, all of which were outstanding solo musicians before joining. Even though they went first, the band put on a solid show playing hits like “Toto” which topped the charts in New Zealand at number three and was certified gold, as well as their 2x platinum certified “Woke Up Late.” Lead vocalist Shaan Singh, one of the original members of the band, showed off his out of this world vocal range and yep, he had his saxophone and played it for Drax Project‘s unreleased single, “Natural Selection.” The band also played a cover of Ginuwine’s “Pony.” Their live performance of the song peaked the NZ charts as a cover in 2017.
Next up was Fletcher. Did you know she was originally part of a girl group called Lakoda Rayne formed on The X-Factor? Yeah, it’s true. However, in the fifth week, the band was eliminated and it has been a solo journey for Fletcher ever since. After her X-Factor experience, the twenty-five-year-old, originally from New Jersey, went on to study at the Clive Davis Institute at NYU. A year and a half into her studies, she took a leave of absence to escape to Nashville with producer Jamie Kenney to record an EP. She then returned to school, her debut single, “War Paint” went viral and the rest is history. During the show she played, as she puts it, many “I hate my ex,” songs including “About You” and “One Too Many.” At one point the singer, sporting a KISS band t-shirt, told the crowd she had one more song and then went into a cover of Dan + Shay’s “Tequila,” but then realized she had yet to play chart-topping single, “Undrunk.” She laughed it off and so did the crowd, soon everyone was belting out “Wish I could get a little undrunk so I could unlove you…” and the show went on!
Ally Brooke — girl — you have some swag! The former member of Fifth Harmony proved her worth as a solo artist last night with vocals that were on-point and that famous girl-band like choreography. Aside from a few collaborations, her work as a soloist really didn’t kick off until her debut single “Low Key” Ft. Tyga released earlier in 2019. “Low Key” was a crowd favorite at KTSH19 this year as well as Ally’s newest track “Lips Don’t Lie” Ft. A Boogie wit da Hoodie. The singer mid-set gave credit to her roots in Texas and then went into a dedication to the late Selena, also from Texas, crediting her as the one who taught Ally that she could do anything and could spread her wings and fly.
Dear Ava Max, you remind me of a mini Lady Gaga! Between your style and your vocals, you’re an up and comer that I really think might be flying under the radar right now, but you are a star. Your voice is raw, your lyrics are catchy, but it was your cover of Alicia Key’s “Fallen” where I really said to myself, “This is just the beginning.” Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Ava has collaborated with artists like David Guetta, Vice and Jason Derulo and made in professional debut in 2017 with a Le Youth single that Ava was featured on called, “Clap Your Hands.” In a recent interview with Kiss 98.5 when asked about the success of her latest hit, “Sweet But Psycho,” the singer commented, “It took a long time… I’ve been trying to make it for ten years,” and goes onto explain how hard she has worked to get to this point and that success doesn’t happen overnight. The singer also played her originals “So Am I,” and an unreleased song called, “Blood, Sweat & Tears.” Of course, she also played “Sweet But Psycho,” and yeah, there were definitely a few people singing in the crowd to their significant other.
Jake Miller, a frequent artist that comes to Buffalo and Kiss 98.5 favorite started his career in May 2011 when he won a Samsung and T-Mobile contest and was awarded a cash prize to put towards his music career. Since then, he has performed with acts like Asher Roth, the late Mac Miller and Sean Kingston. Jake definitely isn’t new to the game, but for a while there he took a break from music for what seemed like a long time, only releasing singles here and there. His latest album, Based On A True Story, released earlier this year and was self-written and produced in his bedroom. The singer during his KTSH19 set commented with “I wrote and produced this song in my bedroom and I heard it on my way here,” and then went into one of the tracks featured on the new album called, “Wait For You.”
Next up, Why Don’t We. I first saw Why Don’t We at Kiss The Summer Hello in 2018, and I have to say, they have come a long way since their Buffalo debut. This time around the band was more in sync vocally and their swag — well, their fans went crazy over it! They know they are good, but aren’t overly cocky and are still quite a young band, so I am hoping they stay humble. They’re quirky when they are not singing and it’s probably one of the reasons why they are such a fan favorite. At one point band member Corbyn Besson was joking about being a banana peel because the rain made it slippery and then the boys went into a competition of who could slide the furthest. The band played a few of their originals like “Trust Fund Baby,” “I Don’t Belong In This Club” Ft. Macklemore, “Unbelievable,” “Big Plans,” and “8 Letters.” They also did a mash-up of a few songs center stage which included Bruno Mars’ “Finesse” and Post Malone’s “Wow.” Can you believe they got their start in 2016? Already, they’ve grown an enormous fanbase worldwide! I can’t help but think that Buffalo is one of the biggest fanbases — the reaction of the crowd was, to say the least loud.
Last, but not least, we have Bazzi. I saw Bazzi at Coachella 2019 and he was a blast to watch perform. Although the energy level may not be the same as Coachella, the KTSH19 crowd without a doubt showed some love to the up and comer as he belted out his lyrics on stage. Bazzi first found fame through Vine, a short-form-video-hosting service, when he became the first artist to release a Vine Featured Track titled, “Bring Me Home.” Within the next few years, he continued to release a number of tracks including “Alone” which he played for the KTSH19 crowd accompanied by his guitar. In 2018, Bazzi unveiled his first album titled Cosmic through Atlantic Records which features some of his hit songs like “Beautiful” Ft. Camila Cabello and a crowd favorite at KTSH19 “Mine.” Just like at Coachella, Bazzi brought down the house with an acapella version of Mine’s lyrics “Hands on your body, I don’t wanna waste no time. / Feels like forever even if forever’s tonight…” to complete his showcase.
Another year at KTSH and more acts that Elicit needs to start putting on their radar. Thanks to Kiss 98.5 for having me out again this year, and props to you for staying on point with the timeline and putting on a great show. I am looking forward to next year!