Despite appearances, this isn’t just another hipster white guy with a beard and a synthesizer. It's Chet Faker. And the Australian-born electronica artist just sold out two nights at the Gothic Theatre in Englewood for good reason.
As I watched the man enter the packed Gothic to screams from adoring fans, I was left to wonder what truly sets him apart. Maybe it’s his smooth vocals and emotive lyrics that have captivated this group of Denver hipsters, more female than male, eclectic in their style and whispering under their breath, "I liked him before he was cool." A few hands bore X-marks, but the demographic was predominantly twenty-somethings, with many appearing to be about the age of Faker himself, who was born in 1988.
The mainstream has been good to Chet Faker, who grew up listening to Smokey Robinson, Aretha Franklin, the Temptations and Otis Redding. "I think that's where I got my love for a good hook, a good soul hook — really smooth and warm and from the heart. It's like my parents' musical tastes are the mother and father of my music." He chose the stage name as an homage to Chet Baker, telling Interview Mag
, "I listened to a lot of jazz and I was a big fan of the way he sang, when he moved into mainstream singing. He had this really fragile vocal style — this really, broken, close-up and intimate style."
The term "fragile" seems like another key to unlocking Faker's performance and popularity. Seeing him in person, you feel like you're witnessing someone talking to himself through his songs. In front of a minimalist two-piece band, he carefully layered his keys, voice and synthesizer to create the loop on each track.
Maybe you can attribute his success to his “musical bromance” with Flume, which began in 2012 with their collaborative work on "Left Alone" and continued into 2013 with their first dual EP, entitled Lockjaw
. Flume is another Aussie artist with enough bass to accentuate the cool, dark, and emo tone of Faker's lyrics. The most popular collab of theirs is “Drop the Game.” Where Flume only lead interludes through with the cool melody when he played the Westword Showcase last month, Faker performed the hit in its entirety.
Maybe it's because he dances better than most bearded white guys, almost moon-walking, his feet moving back and forth in scuffed, white converse. The highlight of his second set in Denver included a passionate anti-cell phone rant before he played "No Diggity". “Everyone in the audience identifies with this song differently. Either, you first heard it twenty years ago, or you first heard it two years ago."
“I’m a part of the last generation that grew up without cellphones ruling our lives, who appreciate actually being there, living in the moment. Really experience this. Live music should be felt.” Faker did everything but beg the crowd to shut down their devices and to hear live music as it should be, without distraction. He finally added that now would be a good time to, “Smoke 'em if you got 'em.”
Maybe all these Denverites love Faker because he isn't afraid to be raw. Faker's fragility is his strength, and it is well exposed in his more intimate ballads. Girls screamed and woo-ed in a sexual way when he performed "Blush", particularly slowing down and almost whimpering the lines, “I kiss your knees and I try to be bold.”
He takes his time.The set peaked again towards the end with "1998", and finally ending with an encore of "Gold" and his number one hit from 2014, "Talk is Cheap."
He is emotional, his lyrics enthralling and his music represents a mixtures
of styles, genres and gap-bridging. In a sea of prototypical musicians, to hear someone authentically spill their heart out to a room full of strangers is a breath of fresh air.