While the world has been shrouded by various pressing news items—i.e. SCOTUS leak and the Ukrainian War—many focuses have been pushed aside to make room for the necessary coverage. As important as those pressing issues are, this is not a time to ignore other perspectives and experiences. May is National Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. To celebrate or educate, attend one of the intimate shows produced by Keepsake House at Rockwood Music Hall.
Keepsake House is a young nonprofit highlighting the ties of music; the “meaningful connection and community.” Jasmine Jang and Hailey Savage, the founders of Keepsake House, hoped to create a safe and inspirational space for independent artists to find a fan base and artistic family. Currently, Keepsake House, along with Alex Wong, are presenting, “Show Yourself: A Benefit Residency Celebrating AAPI Stories.” Every Monday, you can attend a show at Rockwood Music Hall or on livestream.
I experienced the first show in this collection, which varies week-to-week in the artists showcasing. So my roundtable experience was filled with the intimate strength of MILCK’s lyrics, the growing power in the ambience of Alex Wong, and the force of Tonie’s stories. Together, the artists were a symphony of experience and artistry. Not only in the rounds of music they performed, but in the conversations and relationships that were clearly being formed on stage. While the audience experience was comparable to fans in an improv show, an active member of the scene, the clear work was clearly going on in front of us.
MILCK (she/her/hers) was the only artist I knew before the event. Her song, “Quiet,” which reached great popularity during the 2017 Women’s March, is considered to be the foundation of MILCK’s career. However, MILCK has been a member of the music community since long before then. Her use of lyrics as outlets for trauma and growth has made her music sensational. MILCK’s work is powerful. Since her rise to fame, MILCK has been releasing music quite regularly. Her EP followed a year after the love of “Quiet,” and singles have been filling playlists ever since. The latest release, “Power,” has been available for streaming since March.
Alex Wong (he/him/his) was an unfamiliar name to me before the roundtable. However, the intimate concert informed me of Wong’s history in music, his role in his community, and that his inspiration for a lot of his work is his memories. There’s a dissonance for Wong in the memories he doesn’t remember and stories his mind made to fill them. While many music experiences may have a quick story from the artist on how they came to write a certain song, this roundtable experience was a conversation on muses and shared experiences. Wong’s latest album, The Elephant and the Seahorse (2020) is streaming everywhere, including the singles “Monster” (2021).
Tonie (they/them) was another unfamiliar artist to me, however, they quickly threw that social context out the door. With an inviting smile and a warming tone, they brought the audience into their life, not just their music. Stories, as hard as they were, were honest and unabashed as they moved through the story arch to the harmony. Tonie imparts something magically light into tragedies and horrors. Their whole performance offers this reminder that time will always allow a tomorrow, another chance, another moment, another day to love yourself. Start your self-appreciation by listening to Tonie’s latest release, “daydreaming,” streaming across platforms.
Or, by streaming the final 3 roundtable performances, it is the perfect Monday night experience. Let alone, the perfect celebration of AAPI month. Have a drink, relax, and experience. Experience the music, share the experience of the community, and take in these experiences from Asian American and Pacific Islanders’ stories. Proceeds from the show benefit the Quiet Voice Fund—”We support organizations working to redefine power in our culture, toward authenticity, empathy, and actualization, and away from aggression, selfishness, and domination.”