Tuesday, February 10, 2015

This Little Underground: JMSN at Backbooth

Posted By on Tue, Feb 10, 2015 at 1:53 PM

Then just a little angel as Love Arcade
  • Then just a little angel as Love Arcade

Despite some dubious beginnings, Detroit musician Christian Berishaj may finally be on his most serious – and most able to be taken seriously – project yet. After some years in the biz doing toolish pop stints as Love Arcade and Christian TV, he’s now rising up in the deeper alternative R&B tide as JMSN (pronounced like the whiskey), appearing in guest spots alongside the likes of Kendrick Lamar. In fact, unlike his early commercial-leaning iterations, it looks like he’s approaching things from a completely different angle this time. That’s a good thing, and the results show.

click to enlarge Now full-on Jesus as JMSN
  • Now full-on Jesus as JMSN

For a smooth R&B icon, this cat’s got zero dressing room needs, looking instead like he just tumbled out of a grimy tour van and directly onto the stage. At his Orlando debut (Feb. 8, Backbooth), he rocked it in shorts, beard and a greasy Jesus mane. But don’t get thrown by the grungy image. Like some sort of anti-Timberlake, this guy can lay down that white silk. He’s armed with a stylish, airy, falsetto-kissed croon that can wring out the soul without oozing into parody.

click to enlarge JMSN at Backbooth
  • JMSN at Backbooth

Musically, his modern, minimal production is suspended in outer orbit. But in concert, he came packing a real rhythm section that gave his atmospheric sound some nice kick and bite live. When Berishaj finally picked up a guitar, they were officially a full, live R&B band.

click to enlarge JMSN at Backbooth
  • JMSN at Backbooth

Tasteful music and creamy vocal curves like his add up to an impressive sum. But even more than that, his performance felt remarkably natural for someone who’s a relative new jack to R&B. JMSN’s looking pretty legit, and from the size and feel of this crowd, word is getting out. 


This Little Underground is Orlando Weekly's music column providing perspective, live reviews and news on the city's music scene. Read the latest column here.

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