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Concert Review: BENEE @ Rough Trade NYC
by Evan Cheung

BENEE is an up-and-coming artist hailing from New Zealand. Her most recent EP “Fire on Marzz” was released this June, and it mixes soulful vocals with R&B-inspired production. I discovered her around the time her EP dropped, and I immediately became a huge fan. She recently went on a mini-tour in the US, and one of those stops was at Rough Trade NYC on October 21st.

Rough Trade NYC is located in Brooklyn, and it is a record store with a small venue in the back. When I walked in, I took a quick glance at their selection before lining up for the concert. The layout of the venue is pretty much identical to other New York City venues. I found a spot towards the back and waited for the first act to go on.

The opening act was an artist by the name of Binki. When he introduced himself on stage, he seemed very nervous, but that quickly faded away once he started his set. His music was a mix of funk, R&B, and hip-hop, and the crowd seemed to be into it. In the middle of his set, he announced that it was his birthday, which drew several cheers from the crowd. He also gave a shout-out to a group of girls in the front row who knew the lyrics to his songs. At the end of his set, the crowd began to sing “Happy Birthday,” much to his playful annoyance. His eclectic set was both charismatic and quirky, and it set the stage perfectly for the main act.

After Binki left the stage and the BENEE’s backing band finished setting up, the instrumental for her song “Tough Guy” started as she crooned her way onto the stage. From there, the set was high-energy and highly interactive. She would often banter with the crowd and entertain them with her New Zealand sense of humor. She also gave the audience a glimpse into her idiosyncratic songwriting process, like how the track “Afterlife” is about a dream she had where someone killed her. Chill tracks like “Want Me Back” were mixed with more upbeat songs like “Evil Spider.” She also debuted two new songs called “Find an Island” and “Monsta,” which were later released on music platforms a few weeks after the concert. She ended her set with the song “Glitter” before thanking the crowd and promising to return to the States soon.

Seeing BENEE perform live reinforced everything I enjoy about her music. She’s incredibly charming onstage, and her music is just as soulful live as it is in the studio. After seeing her play at Rough Trade, I can definitely say that she is an artist to watch in the future. I look forward to see what’s in store for her, and I will definitely try to catch one of her shows if she returns to the States.