Concert Reviews

TOKiMONSTA DJ Set at the Bluebird Blasted Away Misconceptions

“Toki smiles mischievously, drops dirty beat on unsuspecting crowd,” is what I find scribbled at the bottom of my notepad after TOKiMONSTA’s Thursday show at the Bluebird Theater. 

That’s as good a way as any of summarizing what happened when the L.A. beat producer came through Denver to promote her upcoming January 29 release of Fovere. Through her ninety-minute DJ set, TOKiMONSTA had a packed house dancing like fools – in the best way possible. There was the circle pit that formed in front of the stage when she sampled Dre and Snoop Dogg, a frenetic popping and locking dance-off between those brave or intoxicated enough to jump into the middle. There was the woman in front of me who took a long drag on her vaporizer during a momentary and ethereal suspension of the beat, only to laugh hysterically when TOKi dropped Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright.” And there was a woman who grabbed the railing in front of her and started booty-bouncing against the (boyfriend?)(bro?)(lucky stranger?) behind her.

I have rarely been in such a wild crowd. Their reactions to TOKiMONSTA’s original mixes suggest that she’ll find an eager audience for her upcoming album. This includes the track, “Put It Down,” the first single from Fovere that she unveiled online on Wednesday. A mixture of light, rhythmic synths, trap cymbal hits, and fluid rap deliveries from Anderson .Paak, the song is both full-bodied and supremely danceable. If the rest of Fovere is anything like it, the new album is going to be a not-so-guilty pleasure, edgy and rap-heavy at the same time.

Such has been the evolution of Jennifer Lee’s music: beginning with the reverb-soaked space jazz she honed in east Los Angeles’ beat scene alongside artists like Flying Lotus and Thundercat, then moving into a pop phase. Now her music is getting downright dirty.

At this show, her sampling from these three distinct styles didn’t make for the most unified set. TOKiMONSTA’s performance definitely lagged at times, depending on what flavor of music you’re into. But Jennifer Lee is a fun and talented DJ to watch. She is disarming – in both appearance and how she builds up her songs. TOKiMONSTA has complained about how, due to the fact that she is a female of Korean descent, people compare her to a “cutesy anime princess.” If the crowd still held a perception of the artist as "cutesy," it was blasted away by a nasty remix of Ace Hood's "Bugatti."

TOKiMONSTA has said that her new album’s title, Fovere, means "to cherish" in Latin, and that the work will aim to cherish “everything—good, bad, light and dark.”

At the Bluebird last night, there was no doubt that it was TOKiMONSTA who was cherished.
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Chris Walker is a freelancer and former staff writer at Westword. Before moving to the Mile High City he spent two years bicycling across Eurasia, during which he wrote feature stories for VICE, NPR, Forbes, and The Atlantic. Read more of Chris's feature work and view his portfolio here.
Contact: Chris Walker