On Saturday, October 6th, I enjoyed a live show from local Seattle artist V Contreras. It was a special evening as it with the V Contreras Valiente album release party. After the show, I had a chance to ask her about the new music and few other topics. You can see the interview below this show review.
Surrounded by family, friends and fans, the venue was full of energy and anticipation as the event kicked off.
The evening started off with the performing duo Pooler and Alessandra Rose. Vocalist Alessandra Rose stepped out in a knee-length jacket with pinstripes and red roses over and white button up blouse with a loosely tied, thin black tie, shiny black leggings and a pair of white sneakers. Her auburn hair was styled in a below the chin bob with neatly cut bangs and she had on crimson red lipstick with painted fingernails to match. Pooler, on the keyboards, dressed much simpler in a pair of khakis, ankle length boots, loose, dark blue short sleeve tee and lighter shade of blue beanie.
The music intro started as instrumental tones with a hypnotic and ethereal vibe. Then the vocals flowed into the music. A tender, yet forceful tone that could move through time. The show, being live streamed to the Melodic Caring Project, had a healing feel to it with a relaxing and energetic tempo throughout. During the break after the first song, Alessandra Rose stopped to acknowledge the musical project and say hello to a few children watching from the Midwest, one in particular she mentioned by name, Aleksandra. Then they moved into the next song that of the evening. Their music, sampling sounds from many influential areas, some sounding tribal, trance, and even new age.
From music to dance, the show continued.
The venue for the evening was the Fred Wildlife Refuge. The room was darkly lit on the audience floor, but perfectly bright over a simple stage setting. A white wall was being used to display a large image of the cover of V Contreras’ new album, Valiente.
As the next act began, a Gregorian choir chant intro began to play as a two women walked onto the stage. One in a black hooded cape the other in a light almost silver body suit with flowing train and embellished headdress. The first woman knelt and lifted a glass on a tray up to the other to take a drink. An acoustic version of the song “Hallelujah” began to play with heavy tones of a Spanish guitar.
Alessandra began an interpretive dance, after stepping up onto two glass goblets that were inverted on the floor. During the dance she wriggled her hips. Her arms flowing in fluid motion with the music and fans blowing her train in a soft, breezy flow. Lowering her body, she shifted one foot off a glass and placed her hand on it then continued her dance. When she was done, she took a slight bow then exited the stage.
The point in the evening had arrived for the main event, V Contreras!
I had the chance to review the new album in advance of the show. From that, I wondered what the visual interpretation would be during her performance.
V Contreras took the stage shortly after 9:00 PM. Dawning a gorgeous deep V cut to her waist, multi-colored, sequined dress with black stiletto heels, she looked at the audience. Her hair, sleekly pulled over her right shoulder in a long braid. She was wearing large shiny hoop earrings and large emerald/diamond ring on the middle finger of her right hand. With smokey eyes and red lipstick, she looked ready to conquer the room.
Her band ensemble; two background vocalists, a violinist, cello, guitar, bass, piano player and a drummer. Contreras stepped up onto an elevated stage that made her visible from any spot in the venue and began signing. Fans found themselves lost in the sound of her new music almost instantly. Some with their eyes closed while lost in dance. Others intently watching her every move and hanging on every word that flowed over her lips. On the wall behind Contreras, moving graphics of golden bubbles, white stars, blue bubbles, and flickering random geometric shapes.
Contreras gave a shout out to a few of the children watching the show from their hospital rooms. Dena, Dexter, Faith, Bruce, Awnee-15, Lilly Joe-17, Lily-9, Kaelyn, Aleksandra and There With Care. Then went on talk about the next song “Fences” and how she wrote it for her husband. She mentioned that he’d not heard it yet, while pointing to him in the audience. “Fences” shifted the feel in the entire venue, making the evening feel more intimate.
An evening of interactive exchange continued on…
She talked about the writing differences between her last album and Valiente. How the last was written about relationships and how she wanted this album to just form itself. She then went on to say that over the last couple of years our country has been different. That she feels we’ve come to more of a place of love, despite everything going on around us.
There were a few surprises as Tilson joined Contreras on stage for “Feelin’ That”. Then Okanomodé joined Contreras onstage for a duet of “I Don’t Want to Say Goodbye”. Last guest, Eric Jager, who joined Contreras onstage to perform an acoustic version of “Like It’s Yesterday” with a Spanish guitar. The single was released earlier in the year and was very enjoyable. In this performance half the vocals were done in Spanish as they are also done in a special Spanish version of the single that’s also included on Valiente.
One song off the new album that was instantly familiar to me, was a hot-topic song. Her song of the #metoo movement called “Silence Aint Pretty”. It was well received as one fan yelled out “we believe you”. It’s her own raw experience that she’s been through personally. I like that Contreras does not shy away from the tough topics. She takes them head on and uses music to share them.
The take away from this show for me is what an amazing vocalist V Contreras is. In the live setting there’s no second take and no mixing. Her vocals are just like her album; smooth, sultry, melodic and full of passion. She’s a true vocalist and all that it encompasses. You could clearly see the fans connecting what she is doing and loving it.
V Contreras band members:
Rebecca Young (Bass)
Jeff Fielder (Guitar)
Aaron O’Neil (Drums)
Jason Staczek (Keys)
Andrew Joslyn (Violin also album string and horn arranger)
Taryn Webber (Cello and background vocals)
Sonya Howard (Background vocals)
Allison Clark (Background vocals)
Okanomodé (Now I’m Fine) – vocals – I DON’T WANNA SAY GOODBYE
Eric Jaegar (Children of The Revolution) – flamenco guitar – LIKE IT’S YESTERDAY
Tilson (rapper) – FEELIN’ THAT
Limanjaya DJ’d the music before the show started.
Pooler and Alessandra Rose
Alessandra of alessandradance.com
Photographs by: Karen Mason Blaire
Interview with V Contreras:
(I had the chance to interview V Contreras earlier this year, you can check that out here and get to know much more about this amazing artist.)
Diane Webb for YesterdazeNews: Family, friends and fans that came out to to share your evening at the release party clearly had a great time at the show and loved the new music. From your perspective, how do you feel about the release?
V Contreras: It was a special night and fun to do a show in a non-traditional location. I especially loved the drama that the video wall added. This was my first time selling merchandise outside of CD’s and it was pretty cool to find that the SILENCE AIN’T PRETTY t-shirts sold-out!
In terms of the album, out of the gate, the response to this collection of songs has been really positive in a way that has spurred substantial conversation. I am grateful for this type of feedback.
The release party was streamed live to children in hospitals through the Melodic Caring Project. How did you get involved with the organization and who thought to include the live stream with the show?
Melodic Caring Project asked me to perform at their very first Gala several years ago which is where I had the opportunity to learn about the organization. Since then, they have streamed several of my shows and I’ve had the wonderful opportunity of getting to sing in hospitals in collaboration with MCP. From the moment that I began planning this show, knowing that many of the songs on this album are about strength and spreading inclusion and love, I had hoped to stream the performance via Melodic Caring Project and luckily the timing came together to make that possible.
Can you tell me why you wrote “Silence Aint Pretty” and how it you decided to add it to the album?
This song had a completely different title and theme up until a few days before I recorded the vocals for SILENCE AIN’T PRETTY. Like too many women in the world, I have experienced sexual assault/sexual harassment. It’s difficult to describe (and often times for men to understand) how it feels to have someone believe that they have the right to try to take advantage of you beyond your will.
In the media in regards to other similar situations or even in reference to my own experience, I have heard so many uninformed opinions on why men make unwanted advances on women. Everything from boys just being boys, to simple attraction to alcohol abuse. It’s all bullshit. There is simply no excuse and it truly comes down to power, privilege and entitlement and the world is finally waking up to the fact that the excuses are just that, excuses. This behavior is perpetuated by those who turn a blind eye which has ultimately created a systemic problem. It is unacceptable.
“I came forward about my experience right before recording this song. As a writer, it’s almost impossible not to write about what you are feeling in those impactful moments in your life”, said Contreras.
I turned to a pen and paper and as I stared at the reflection of my experience, I saw a song sitting there in front of me. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to go there but in some ways I did feel a sense of responsibility to at least consider it. As I went to the studio and prior to going into the vocal booth, I shared my experience with Martin (who produced the album and is a dear friend.) His support and empathy was simply beautiful and what I really needed at that time. I showed him the lyrics that had begun to take shape and he encouraged me to move forward and helped me refine and craft the lyrics.
That song is hard for me to listen to but writing about my experience was therapeutic to me. My hope is that this song might inspire another woman to not just boldly come forward but to do so with no shame. Coming forward makes things messy for others. It would certainly be easier for those in power if we were to stand there silently and just look pretty but we have to remember that life got messy for us without our consent, without our choice and in our silence, we are the only ones suffering. It’s time to disrupt the order. Messiness is what has historically caused change and we are seeing a shift in our culture because of the boldness of so many women.
You wrote a song that you dedicated to your husband. What inspired you to write the song and to add it to Valiente?
Yes, the song is called FENCES. Jeff Fielder and I wrote the music for this song together in a short writing session. I wrote the lyrics about the way in which I have tended to build a safeguard around my heart as a mechanism to keep myself safe. As we all know, it is less likely that we will get hurt if we protect ourselves and never quite let ourselves be vulnerable. There is so much that we miss out on playing it safe and through the course of many many years I have slowly dismantled the fence.
This week, the Music Moderation Act was signed into law. How do you feel about that as an artist? And how will it help you as an artist?
This is a huge win and something that the music community has been working towards for over a decade. This legislation addresses the way that funds are allocated and the one that will affect me the most personally is the creation of a single licensing collective which will transparently and effectively collect and distribute funds to rights holders for streamed music.
On behalf of the Recording Academy, I participated in Grammy’s on The Hill in 2016 and met with members of Congress and the Senate (Patty Murray, Darrell Issa and Pete Aguilar specifically) in regards to the AMP Act and Fair Pay for Fair Play. I’m pleased to see that the AMP Act is included in the Music Modernization Act as well as revisions to compensation for legacy artists. It’s too bad that Fair Pay for Fair Play provisions were removed due to prospective lobbying pressure from the National Association of Broadcasters. But this is a very good start in shaping copyright laws to be applicable to the way music is consumed in the twenty-first century.
With Valiente officially released, what are touring plans?
I don’t have anything ready to announce, but am working on a plan!
Where can fans buy a copy of Valiente and what formats are available for the fans to purchase?
Valiente is available on all digital formats (iTunes, Spotify, Amazon digital, Google Play, Amazon, etc.). The hard copy version is available on my website at: www.musicofv.com.