It was an excruciatingly cold evening that had me thinking “I wore the wrong jacket,” as I waited outside Neumos last Friday for the 2017 KEXP Yule Benefit featuring Shabazz Palaces. Arriving early to beat Seattle traffic, I couldn’t wait to get inside, but it was for the wrong reason. Escaping the elemental forces came secondary to what soon encompassed me.

From the fully expressed organizers in Christmas garments to the diverse yet seamlessly transitioning musical performances – this KEXP Yule Benefit show was one I will never forget.

What lied at the core of such a potent experience? What motivated and inspired these individual pieces to move as one unified body of artistic expression?


It all began with Sharlese Metcalf. A KEXP DJ and host of Audioasis, she relieved the room of awkwardness as her playlist set the tone and multiplied mingling tenfold. Side note: as host for the evening she had a whopping four outfit changes! So hosts, step your game up!

KEXP Yule Benefit Recap: Shabazz Palaces, True Loves, and Falon Sierra

Photo by Project Girl Crush


At this point, the venue was full and itching for a show. That’s exactly what they received! Falon Sierra bridged the gap between genres, generations, and human experience. Her unapologetic persona, unparalleled vocal ability, and heavy hitting instrumentals infused the night with the energy it so desperately craved.

KEXP Yule Benefit Recap: Shabazz Palaces, True Loves, and Falon Sierra

Photo by Lucy Christo


Some tunes are meant to make you cry, while others to laugh and dance the night away. But only the most seasoned and worldly of these can achieve all three. A well placed “intermission” between two modern acts, The True Loves deeply resonated with the mature and sophisticated tastes of the crowd. It’s as if the organizers had psychic powers, catering to the emotional needs of the room, all while tactfully prepping it for Shabazz.

KEXP Yule Benefit Recap: Shabazz Palaces, True Loves, and Falon Sierra

Photo by Lucy Christo

Trance States

Their presence highly anticipated, with the lights signaling a transition soon to be, Shabazz Palaces gave people an opportunity to reflect. By taking their time, in a way that only legends can allow themselves, they began a dialogue with us before uttering a phrase. Slowly, the faint sound of shakers heightened our senses. The room dark and impatient, our heroes emerged; almost as if from a world beyond. From the smooth vocals to the live looping and entrancing visuals, I can easily say this was my favorite set of 2017.  

KEXP Yule Benefit Recap: Shabazz Palaces, True Loves, and Falon Sierra

Photo by Lucy Christo

So what are the key components to creating an event of such caliber? How does it all come together? I enlisted the humans responsible to help me understand.

For McKenna Haley, the event coordinator at KEXP, “It takes a really good idea, people to support it and a lot of organization.” True Loves bandleader, Jimmy James, replied like a true musician would with “Rehearsal, chemistry and having lots of fun.

Reflective of the flow of the evening, Ishmael Butler (½ of Shabazz Palaces) delivered the last blow simply: “Passion”. It may seem like a cop-out, but I felt he was sincere, and the more I reflect, the more something becomes clear. The leadership, the pushing beyond thresholds at rehearsal; the sleepless nights planning. All of that would be impossible without passionate, self-sustaining, undeniable drive.

We’d love to hear from you! Comment below and share your experience with passion, any of the above-mentioned artists or success stories of your own!