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ACL Fest review: Autre ne Veut

Deborah Sengupta

Editor’s note: This article was originally published October 12, 2013

Arthur Ashin is not your average r&b singer. Wearing a plain white t-shirt, a pair of black track pants and a backwards ball cap there was nothing flashy or even remotely suave about his look as he took the Honda stage for his 1 pm set on Saturday. He also forgoes the genre’s traditional reliance on rich instrumentation, relying instead on a laptop-fueled electronic aural palette that’s often notably sparse.

But Ashin is the real deal — an artist who sings like his heart just might be breaking, as if he couldn’t release the song from his body he just might explode. This was even true when he dropped in a slow jam version of Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know” as a song intro, something that really shouldn’t have worked as well as it did. And it’s that palpable emotional weight that makes him infinitely compelling.

His weekend two crowd might have been slightly bigger than those who showed up weekend one. He had a tough time slot with many leaving early to stake out solid positioning for Haim’s 2 pm set, but those who stuck around seemed thoroughly engaged. A good sized crowd clustered around the front of the stage and —get this — didn’t talk. And after each song, from the front to the back there was a raucous cheer.