The boundary-pushing, ‘groove-heavy,’ bilingual artist from Asheville, N.C., headlines the inaugural All Call Music Festival taking place in Traverse City on Sunday. The Local Spins interview, with videos.
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Helado Negro has brought his critically acclaimed, cutting-edge electronic folk/pop music to audiences across the United States and throughout South America.
But he’s never played northern Michigan, which make his headlining slot at Sunday’s inaugural All Call Music Festival at Traverse City’s Little Fleet a milestone event.
“It seems like such a magical place the way everybody describes it,” said Helado Negro, who will take up residence at a friend’s place during the weekend tour stop.
The bilingual artist with a Latin background will also join soulful Chicago singer-songwriter and friend Kaina in the lineup for the one-day festival that boasts a half-dozen eclectic national acts performing on two stages.
“I can’t wait. I love Kaina. I sang on her newest record (‘It Was a Home’),” Helado Negro said in a telephone interview from Portland, Ore., amid a U.S. tour that wraps up with the Traverse City show. “I highly recommend everyone to check out Kaina live at this festival. She’s just a really wonderful artist from Chicago.”
As for Helado Negro, born Roberto Carlos Lange in Florida to Ecuadorian immigrants, the avant-pop artist last year relocated from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Asheville, N.C., “just to be somewhere else for a little bit.”
But Brooklyn also is where Little Fleet owner Gary Jonas booked Helado Negro for one of the first shows at a New York venue that Jonas owned several years ago before moving to Traverse City. Jonas said he’s been trying to get Negro to Traverse City ever since.
“It was the first show I played in Brooklyn,” Helado Negro recalled. “I thought that was pretty sweet.”
Since then, the singer, guitarist and synthesizer player has released several EPs and more than a half-dozen studio albums, including last year’s “Far In” that Slant magazine called a “seductive brand of electro-pop” and Pop Matters raved “positively radiates with danceable beats and capacious arrangements decorated with lush textures.”
SONGS THAT ‘MAKE YOU SHAKE AND WIGGLE HOWEVER YOU WAHT TO’
Interestingly, he said he hadn’t actually intended to record a new album, but found himself with his partner, visual artist Kristi Sword, in the high desert of Marfa, Texas, working on a commissioned audio-and-visual piece when the COVID pandemic hit in early 2020.
“Everything was locked down and we just decided to stay there,” he said, noting it gave him to further develop and record songs he had started with friends in Brooklyn.
“Far In,” he said, is “a little bit of everything” in terms of its musical approach.
“The record before was a little softer and a little more delicate and a little more vulnerable. (‘Far In’) has a lot of groove-heavy songs that make you shake and wiggle however you want to, or head-nod.”
Fans likely will be shaking, wiggling and head-nodding on Sunday when Helado Negro closes out the All Call Main Stage at 8 p.m., following sets earlier in the day by Finom (formerly Ohmme), Kaina, Tiny Jag, Daniel Villarreal and The Antivillains (who kick it all off at 3 p.m. on the Pergola Stage).
“There are certain things we interpret live that aren’t verbatim with the album, but we do use computers to play back certain aspects of sounds,” Helado Negro said of sampling and other sonic elements used during shows.
“There’s an exciting opportunity to have sounds that wouldn’t exist at all as a performer or in performance or can’t be created as a performer.”
The innovative artist – who mounts a South American tour in November – also embraces the loving reaction of audiences to his music.
“It’s cool to be on stage because you can see everyone. I think people forget that as much as they’re looking at us, we can see them and everything they’re doing,” he said.
“There are different people being really loving and tender on each other, and really just get absorbed in this loving and tenderness of feeling.”
The All-Call Music Festival takes place 2-10 p.m. Sunday (Sept. 4) on Wellington Street and outside The Little Fleet in Traverse City. In addition to Helado Negro and Kaina, performers on two different stages will include Finom (formerly known as Ohmme), Tiny Jag, Daniel Villarreal and The Antivillains. Tickets are $35 and available online at allcallmusicfestival.com.
VIDEO: Helado Negro, “There Must Be a Song Like You” (from “Far In”)
VIDEO: Helado Negro w/ Buscabulla, “Agosto” (from “Far In”)
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