Tom Krell is a lo-fi R&B musician based out of Chicago. (Kate Faiella/Bloc Photographer)
Tom Krell is a lo-fi R&B musician based out of Chicago. (Kate Faiella/Bloc Photographer)

Only candle light bathed the basement of U Street Music Hall when Tom Krell, also known as How To Dress Well, took the stage Saturday night, a performance with no barriers and endless emotion.

How To Dress Well, a lo-fi R&B musician based out of Chicago, has been touring North America in support of his new album, “What Is This Heart?”, since June. The show opened with a performance by Nite Jewel, a Los Angeles-based lo-fi musician.

A three-person band surrounded Krell, including a keyboardist, DJ and violinist, and one of his childhood friends on the drums.

Throughout his various sets, Krell clung to two microphone stands, shook with the bass, beat his fists and hit his chest. When his eyes were not clenched shut, Krell looked out past the audience of about 300, with what seemed like a private sadness in his expression.

Krell delved into a personal performance, silencing the audience with songs like “Suicide Dream 1,” a piece dedicated to a deceased close friend, before shaking them back up with songs like “Face Again” and “A Power.”

“So every night when I perform this song, I feel really beautiful,” Krell said, regarding “Suicide Dream 1.”

“He gets really into it,” Gaby Wildfeuer, a senior biology major at the College of William and Mary, said. “It seems like a really personal thing for him.”

In between each song, Krell interacted with the audience and his band members, telling stories about his past 55 days touring, thanking the club for being “so f—ing dope” and bringing his band cupcakes before the show. Krell also requested someone from the audience to grab him a beer.

Fiyin Awe, a freshman economics major at UMBC, said she enjoys listening to How To Dress Well while she studies.

“[His music is] hype enough that I’m able to keep up and actually enjoy the music while I listen to it,” Awe said. “But it’s also pretty calm, and the instrumental aspect is pretty nice.”

Greg Ongao, a junior philosophy major at Georgetown University, said he fell in love with How To Dress Well when he heard the song “Words I Don’t Remember” a few months ago.

“He’s got this very interesting background where he grew up listening to a lot of Whitney Houston and a lot of female R&B, and it sort of mixes into his sound,” Ongao said. “It’s just sort of odd, this white guy from Illinois, listening to R&B and making great music.”

After his 10-song set, which lasted for more than an hour, the audience stayed in place and continued cheering to an empty stage.

Krell, who told the audience about a less-than-satisfying performance at District N9ne in Philadelphia Friday night, appreciated the audience’s reception to his D.C. show.

“You have no idea how f—ing rejuvenating it is to play for a crowd like you,” Krell said before ending the night with the first track on his new album, “2 Years On (Shame Dream)”.

writersblocheadshots11Daphne Pellegrino is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at 

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